For the past two weeks, one of the entertainment world’s biggest stories has been an alleged motivated attack on actor and performer Jussie Smollett. Now, a report from Chicago affiliate ABC7 claims that the incident may not have been a hate crime, but a staged situation meant to benefit Smollett’s career — while “Empire” producer 20th Century Fox and the Chicago Police Department have made statements denying the report.
ABC7 reports that Smollett did not appear for a planned Thursday interview with detectives and that investigators are questioning a pair of individuals who may have been involved. The report cites sources who say that Smollett’s character being phased out of the Fox show “Empire” may have been a possible motivation for staging the incident.
However, a statement from 20th Century Fox denies that there were any plans to write off Smollett from 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.” – STATEMENT FROM 20TH CENTURY FOX TELEVISION AND FOX ENTERTAINMENT
— 20th Century Fox TV (@20centuryfoxTV) February 15, 2019
In addition, the chief communications officer for the Chicago Police Department shot down the ABC7 report.
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
When details first emerged about the alleged attack on the night of January 29, they included claims that Smollett was assaulted by a pair of young men. After shouting gay and racial slurs, the initial reports also asserted that the two men proceeded to “batter the victim with their hands about the face and poured an unknown chemical substance on him.”
Many throughout various corners of the entertainment industry and the LGBTQ community had spent much of the intervening time since Smollett’s hospitalization voicing support for him and condemnation of the alleged crime. At the recently completed Television Critics Association press tour, Smollett’s colleagues on “Empire” spoke firmly about the actor’s resolve, and Fox CEO Charlie Collier also offered condolences. The Smollett family’s collective statement on the issue labeled the alleged attack as “a racial and homophobic hate crime” and an act of “domestic terrorism.”
Jussie Smollett has made a number of public statements about the incident, including one in writing to Essence Magazine and an interview on the Thursday morning edition of ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Days after January 29, still insisting it was an attack motivated by both his race and orientation, Smollett performed to a sold-out audience at The Troubadour in West Hollywood, concluding his set by saying, “We are proud. We are gay.”