'Hate crime' attack on 'Empire' actor Jussie Smollett was staged, reports suggest
Two "persons of interest" – including another actor from the TV drama – have reportedly confessed to staging the hate crime against Smollett in order to convince showrunners to keep him on. The attack – in which the perpetrators allegedly yelled "This is MAGA country!" while placing a rope around the actor's neck – shocked and horrified a nation that thought it had moved beyond such behavior.
Chicago police reportedly tracked down the suspects, a pair of brothers from Nigeria who returned to their home country the night after the attack. Officers were waiting at O'Hare Airport to apprehend them on their return and seized a variety of items in a search of their apartment, including a red hat, bleach, electronics, and sneakers.
After hours of questioning, they apparently spilled the beans, and reports from local CBS and ABC stations framed the entire event as a hoax that was staged because Smollett's character was being written off the series.
While a police spokesman says the ABC7 report is "unconfirmed by case detectives," details are gradually leaking out, and for many critical watchers the story never really added up.
Smollett had been less than cooperative with authorities, failing to show up for interviews and dragging his feet in turning over phone records, which some found strange for a supposed victim of a modern-day lynching. The attack was not caught on camera in a city with more surveillance cameras per square mile than anywhere else in the country. Still, politicians and pundits used the attack to grandstand, and everyone prayed the miscreants who'd targeted the actor would be found quickly.
Smollett initially told authorities he was jumped while walking home from a fast-food restaurant around 2am on January 29, claiming the attackers beat him up, poured bleach on him, shouted racist and homophobic slurs, and placed a rope around his neck. When police questioned him about a TMZ report published the following day, which claimed his attackers had yelled "This is MAGA country!" (referring to the Trump slogan "Make American Great Again"), he claimed he'd forgotten to include that detail in his initial narrative.
Earlier on Thursday, Smollett told Good Morning America he was "pissed off" that people didn't believe his story of the attack.
Twitter was full of speculation on what was next for Smollett.
Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!