On Thursday, a ABC7 Chicago report citing “multiple sources” said that Empire star Jussie Smollett may have orchestrated his own attack in order to avoid having his character written off. But almost immediately following its publication, Chicago police and writers for Empire denied the validity of those reports.
Smollett was beaten by two men on January 29 by men reportedly yelling homophobic and racial slurs. Afterward, police sought two men who were caught on grainy surveillance video nearby. On February 14, ABC7 reported that Smollett failed to appear for a follow-up interview with police, and that the homes of two men who appeared as extras on Empire had been searched. CBS2 Chicago reported that investigators “took bleach, shoes, electronics, receipts and other items from the home” of the men, who left for Nigeria the day of the attack and were picked up at O’Hare International airport upon their return. Gloria Schmidt, an attorney for the men, told CBS that her clients deny having anything to do with the attack:
“They are baffled about why they are people of interest,” Schmidt said. “It’s an awful thing that happened to Jussie, but it’s not my guys.”
A representative for Smollett countered that he did answer police questions on Thursday and that he “continues to be cooperative.” And a communications officer for the Chicago Police Department answered the reports with a tweet saying that there is “no evidence to support their reporting and their supposed CPD sources are uninformed and inaccurate.”
Writers for Empire also tweeted that there are no plans for writing Smollett off the show:
Fox, the network that airs Empire, also stood behind Smollett, according to Variety:
“The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of ‘Empire’ is patently ridiculous,” the network and studio said in a joint statement. “He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him.”
Smollett himself addressed those insisting he was responsible for his own assault on Good Morning America the morning before ABC7 called the attack a hoax. “It’s not necessarily that you don’t believe that this is the truth, you don’t even want to see the truth.”