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Amid the ongoing investigation into Jussie Smollett's alleged plot to stage his own attack in January, many fans and critics have chimed in to convey either their support or condemnation of the actor. Terrence Howard, the Empire star and TV dad of Smollett's character on the series, has chosen to defend his costar despite the evidence mounting against him.
Howard took to Instagram on Saturday to signal his support by posting a video in which a baby is sitting on Smollett's lap and laughing as he tickles him. Howard captioned the video, "All your lil homies got you. We love the hell outta you." Fellow Empire actress Gabourey Sidibe also commented on the post with three heart emojis.
A wave of critics began condemning Howard's support of Smollett in the comments section, including Scandal actor Columbus Short, per USA Today. "Whatever game was played is unacceptable," he commented. "And yes I am speaking on your page loudly and clearly. I look up to you Terence. You have to take a leadership position. And denounce this (expletive). Otherwise you as dumb as he is. Period!"
Howard confronted some of the comments he received and doubled down on his support for his costar. "The Jussie I know could never even conceive of something so unconscious and ugly," Howard wrote. "His innocence or judgment is not for any of us to decide. Stay in your lane and my lane is empathy and love and compassion for someone I’ve called my son for five years. It’s God’s job to judge and it’s ours to love and hope, especially for those that we claim to have loved. There’s nothing more harmful than a real friend!"
On Friday, executives on the Fox series announced that Smollett's character would not be returning for the remainder of the fifth season. In the statement released, the executives explain that they're going to trust the legal system in regards to the actor, who was indicted and arrested for falsifying a police report and disorderly conduct.