Chicago Police say reports claiming the attack of Empire actor Jussie Smollett was staged are “unconfirmed”.
Smollett told police he was attacked by two men in the early hours of January 29 after they shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him. The men reportedly beat Smollett, poured bleach on him, and wrapped a rope around his neck. His attackers fled on foot.
Smollett says he was on the phone to his manager when he was attacked.
Smollett’s initial reluctance to report the crime and refusal to hand over his phone to authorities was met with suspicion from corners of the internet. However, in his first TV interview detailing the attack, Smollett put his initial reluctance down to a “level of pride”.
Smollett added that he did not want to hand over his phone because he has a number of private videos, messages, music, voice memos, and phone numbers stored on his device that he wanted to protect.
Hours after the interview aired, CBS Chicago cited a “top source” – apparently investigators – who say the incident was a “staged attack”.
— Brad Edwards (@tvbrad) February 15, 2019
However, Chicago Police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi says media reports about the “Empire incident being a hoax are unconfirmed by case detectives.”
Guglielmi says Superintendent Eddie Johnson has contacted ABC 7 Chicago to say on the record that they have no evidence to support their reporting, adding their supposed sources are “uninformed and inaccurate.”
Media reports anout the Empire incident being a hoax are unconfirmed by case detectives. Supt Eddie Johnson has contacted @ABC7Chicago to state on the record that we have no evidence to support their reporting and their supposed CPD sources are uninformed and inaccurate. pic.twitter.com/iSO5YFv452
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) February 15, 2019
According to Variety, local media previously reported that Smollett had staged the attack because Fox was planning on writing his character off of the show.
“The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of ‘Empire’ is patently ridiculous. He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him.”
In his first public appearance after the attack – at a concert in California earlier this month – Smollett addressed claims he was lying about the incident.
“There has been a lot of stuff said about me that’s absolutely not true,” he said.
The actor then clarified a number of details about the attack including his specific injuries.
In his interview with Roberts, Smollett expressed his frustration that people doubted his account of the attack.
“It feels like if I had said it was a Muslim, or a Mexican, or someone black, I feel like the doubters would have supported me much more,” he told Roberts.
“I will never be the man that this did not happen to,” he said. “I am forever changed.”