In a video posted late Saturday night to Instagram, Howard made it clear that he's choosing to believe his co-star, who has maintained his innocence amid charges that he filed a false police report and staged a hate crime against himself in an attempt to leverage more money out of the Fox production.
"All your lil homies got you... We love the hell outta you," Howard captioned the video of Smollett playing with a giggling baby.
It was a simple enough message, but it couldn't be louder or clearer. And it was met with a mixed response from 'Empire' fans and Howard's followers.
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"Agree to a point," commented one fan (username velcavs). "Personally, for me the the the first step in forgiveness and support would be to admit you've done wrong. He hasn't done that, but again your prerogative to believe him and stand by him regardless of court of public opinion."
Ironically, this comment both contradicts himself and makes Howard's point, as well. Smollett has been convicted in the court of public opinion, but only there thus far. He maintains his innocence, despite the evidence the authorities say they have, and Howard is choosing to believe him and stand by the idea of "innocent until proven guilty."
TMZ's reporting has uncovered a series of text messages between Smollett and Abel Osundairo that seemingly support Smollett's claim that the check he wrote the Nigerian brothers -- it was made out to Abel -- was for training purposes, as the memo line indicated.
The texts includes messages from Abel urging Smollett to remember his cardio and even outlines healthy menus for him to follow. The memo line also included the phrase "Don't Go," with TMZ sources saying this is the name of a song for which Smollett was hoping to slim down before he went shirtless in its music video.
Smollett turned himself in and was booked by Chicago PD early Thursday morning under a felony charge for filing a false police report; following claims he made about being attacked by racist, homophobic, MAGA supporters. He was released on $100,000 bond.
Chicago police are maintaining they believe that Smollett orchestrated the attack with the two Nigerian brothers and that he set up the whole thing because he felt he was underpaid on his show.
They say they have the brothers affirming this version of events, as well as physical evidence including text messages and a check Smollett purportedly wrote the brothers to commit the fake crime.
These latest text messages could certainly cast doubt on at least the last part of that message, which is just the kind of thing Smollett's defense team is looking for. The Nigerian brothers have also said the check was for training purposes, per TMZ.
Smollett returned to the set of "Empire" after posting bond and apologized to his cast and crew, maintaining his innocence there, as well. Nevertheless, the actor is being written out of episodes for the remainder of the season and his future with the show remains in doubt.