03/31/2019 10:14 EDT | Updated 03/31/2019 10:26 EDT

Chris Rock Calls Out Jussie Smollett At NAACP Image Awards

"What the hell was he thinking?" the comedian asks about the "Empire" actor.

When actor-comedian Chris Rock took the stage Saturday at the NAACP Image Awards, he had more on his mind than announcing the winner for outstanding comedy series.     

“They said no Jussie Smollett jokes,” Rock said. “Yeah, I know. I know. What a waste of light skin. You know what I could do with that light skin? That curly hair? My career would be out of here. I’d be fucking running Hollywood.”

With audience members laughing hard, Rock added: “What the hell was he thinking? From now on ... you’re Jessie from now on. You don’t even get the ‘U’ no more. That ‘U’ was respect. You don’t get no respect from me.”

Smollett, nominated for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series for his role on “Empire,” did not attend the event, held in Los Angeles. He’s the object of derision from many after he reported earlier this year that he had been the victim of a racist and homophobic attack by two white men in Chicago, only to have the police conclude that he had paid two Nigerian men to assault him for publicity reasons.

Smollett was charged with 16 felony counts of making false statements to authorities. In a surprise last week, prosecutors dropped the charges, unleashing a second wave of controversy.

Twitter users were overwhelmingly supportive of Rock’s comments about Smollett.