‘Empire’ actor staged attack to ‘promote his career’, in police custody
CHICAGO (AP) — 'Empire' actor Jussie Smollett staged a racist and homophobic attack because he was unhappy about his salary and wanted to promote his career, Chicago’s police superintendent said Thursday.
Before the attack, Smollett also sent a threatening letter that targeted himself to the Fox studio in Chicago where “Empire” is filmed, Supt. Eddie Johnson said.
Smollett turned himself in and was arrested early Thursday to face accusations that he filed a false police report when he told authorities he was attacked in Chicago by two men who hurled racist and anti-gay slurs and looped a rope around his neck, police said.
“He took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Johnson told reporters at a news conference.
“This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve,” he later added.
The whispers about Smollett’s account started with reports that he had not fully cooperated with police after telling authorities he was attacked. Then detectives in a city bristling with surveillance cameras could not find video of the beating.
Later, two brothers were taken into custody for questioning but were released after two days, with police saying they were no longer suspects.
Johnson said Smollett paid the brothers $3,500 to stage the attack.
In a statement Wednesday, attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson said Smollett “enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked.”
Smollett, who plays a gay character on the hit Fox television show “Empire,” said he was attacked as he was walking home from a downtown Subway sandwich shop.
He said the masked men beat him, made derogatory comments and yelled “This is MAGA country” — an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again” — before fleeing.