Brow Beat

What Actually Happened to Jussie Smollett? Here’s What We Know So Far.

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 28:  Jussie Smollett attends the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's 60th Anniversary Opening Night Gala Benefit at New York City Center on November 28, 2018 in New York City.  (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)
Jussie Smollett.
Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Update on Feb. 17 at 10:40 a.m.: Chicago Police are investigating whether Jussie Smollett staged his own attack after they released two brothers who had been described as suspects in the case. Smollett’s lawyers pushed back against the allegations, saying the Empire actor is “angered and devastated” at the suggestions that he was somehow involved.

Original post: On Jan. 29, it was reported that Empire star Jussie Smollett had been attacked in Chicago in what was described as a hate crime. Early reports said that Smollett was attacked by two men around 2 a.m. after getting a sandwich at his local Subway. He was reportedly beaten up and a noose was tied around his neck.

Later reports alleged that Smollett’s attackers, who were white, yelled “This is MAGA country” while also spouting racist and homophobic slurs and dousing him in bleach.

As the story has developed, there have been several conflicting reports. Here’s what we know so far, and what we don’t.

What happened that night?
That’s a difficult question to answer. Right now, the Chicago Police Department says they can’t comment on an ongoing investigation, so the only details we have are from Smollett himself.

The attackers cracked his ribs, right?
Wrong. In an ABC News interview with Robin Roberts, the actor said that while he was in pain, his ribs were not cracked.

Was Smollett able to get a good view of his attackers? They were wearing Make America Great Again hats.
Wrong again. While Smollett has echoed initial reports that his attackers yelled “This is MAGA country,” that they racist and homophobic slurs, and that they were white men, during the interview with Roberts, he denied the claims that they were wearing MAGA hats.

I just heard that Jussie may have staged the attack. Why do people think that?
The police reviewed footage from security cameras of Smollett’s walk to his apartment, but a police spokesman said the following day they were unable to find evidence of him being attacked. There was a camera at the alleged scene, but unfortunately it was facing the opposite direction. Also, Smollett called the police from his apartment instead of from the scene. Smollett also initially refused to hand over his phone when it was requested by police, and eventually provided them with “heavily redacted” records, citing a desire to protect the privacy of people not involved in the attack. Yesterday, Chicago’s ABC 7 reported that police were now investigating the possibility that Smollett had faked the attack with the help of two other men.

Do the police actually think Smollett faked the whole thing?
No. In a tweet, the police spokesman said, “media reports anout [sic] 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.”

Were police able to find footage of anyone matching Smollett’s description?
They were not, but they did arrest two suspects today. However, the Nigerian men arrested are black, calling into question Smollett’s description of the men.

Well, maybe they’re not the right guys.
That’s definitely a possibility. However, it turns out Smollett actually knows the men. It is alleged that he worked out with them at the gym, and that they were extras on Empire.

So these new persons of interest fall in line with the theory that this was staged? Going back to that theory, I heard he may have staged it because he was being written off Empire.
The claim that Smollett is being written off Empire had been denied by Fox, the police, and the show’s writing staff. In a statement, Fox said:

“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.”

The Empire writers took to their Twitter to shut down the claim as well.

As did show co-creator Danny Strong.

I’d really like to see the ABC News interview he did.
Watch it below.