News & Politics

Shifting Stories Cloud Claims of Alleged Hate Crime Attack Targeting 'Empire' Actor Jussie Smollett

Shifting Stories Cloud Claims of Alleged Hate Crime Attack Targeting 'Empire' Actor Jussie Smollett
(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

The incendiary story of an alleged hate crime attack targeting Empire actor Jussie Smollett immediately went viral yesterday, with media reporting the attackers made racial and anti-gay comments while using President Trump’s “MAGA” slogan during the 2 a.m. assault in downtown Chicago.

But conflicting versions of the incident from Smollett himself, and details reported by the media being outright contradicted by Chicago Police have raised questions about what actually happened.

Debra Heine noted on the PJ Media last night that police had found surveillance video of Smollett, but had not been able to find video of the alleged assailants.

The explosive details of the incident were initially broadcast by TMZ:

“Empire” star Jussie Smollett was brutally attacked by 2 men who beat him up, put his head in a noose and screamed, “This is MAGA country.”

Sources directly connected to Jussie tell TMZ, the actor arrived in Chicago from New York late Monday, and at around 2 AM he was hungry and went to a Subway. We’re told when shortly after he walked out on his way home, someone yelled, “Aren’t you that f***ot ‘Empire’ n*****?”

The 2 men — both white and wearing ski masks — viciously attacked Jussie as he fought back, but they beat him badly and fractured a rib. They put a rope around his neck, poured bleach on him and as they left they yelled, “This is MAGA country.”

Jussie took himself to Northwestern Memorial where he was treated. He was discharged later Tuesday morning.

The TMZ article now features a FaceTime screenshot of Smollett in the hospital taken by Empire creator Lee Daniels that Fields had initially posted online but then removed.

Chicago Police issued this initial statement:

The Chicago Police issued subsequent statements denying TMZ’s claim that Smollett reported the suspects yelling “this is MAGA country.” However, Chicago Police later said that Smollett did reveal the detail in a second interview — taken after the TMZ story had spread:

The Daily Beast later reported that a Chicago Police spokesperson refuted TMZ’s claim of the defendants being male and white. The spokesperson stated the gender and race of the alleged assailants were unknown to Smollett because they were wearing ski masks and gloves.

Then other odd details began to emerge, further clouding the situation.

Chicago Police stated that they have yet to find any video evidence of any attackers or their vehicle:

Then a police spokesman said that when officers first arrived on the scene, nearly 45 minutes after the alleged attack, Smollett was still wearing the rope around his neck:

Smollett also asked the officers to turn off their body cameras when they entered the residence, a high-end apartment reportedly owned by his friend:

Local media reported that Smollett was even reluctant to give police a statement initially, and refused ambulance transport. He later “self-transported” himself to Northwestern Hospital.

ABC News reported that “an unknown chemical substance” was used in the incident. There has been no police confirmation that it was bleach, as TMZ initially reported and many other media outlets shared.

Chicago Police stated that they are treating the incident as a potential hate crime, and that the FBI is assisting them in their investigation.

It should also be noted that Smollett has expressed animus toward President Trump going back years before he announced his campaign for the presidency:

Early last year he tweeted out this racially tinged invective targeting Trump:

Given the shifting and sketchy details available so far, some have urged caution about the narrative getting ahead of the known facts of the situation:

But that warning has fallen on deaf ears. Politicians, Hollywood figures, and the usual racial grifters all tried to capitalize on the narrative:

To recap:

  • TMZ initially claimed Smollett was physically assaulted by two white males shouting “this is MAGA country” and anti-gay and racial slurs, and that they doused him with bleach and put a noose around his neck.
  • Chicago Police initially denied the “MAGA” claim based on their initial interview. Smollett only added that detail in a second interview, after it had already been widely reported.
  • Police spokesmen also said that since the assailants were wearing ski masks and gloves, their race and gender are unknown to Smollett.
  • When police officers arrived at the residence, Smollett was still wearing the rope around his neck 45 minutes after the incident, was reluctant to provide a statement, and asked for their body cameras to be turned off.
  • Police have been unable to obtain any video evidence of the assailants or their vehicle.
  • Smollett clearly has a long-standing axe to grind with President Trump.

Given recent incidents, it would seem prudent to allow law enforcement authorities to investigate the matter before leaping to conclusions or pushing highly charged political claims.

But this incident has already been politicized, and it’s unlikely that prudence and caution are going to prevail until more facts are known.


This article has been updated to correct the date of Smollett’s tweet criticizing President Trump. The tweet was sent January 2018, not 2019. The name of the creator of ‘Empire” has also been corrected.