See below for updates.
On Saturday night, Chicago Police confirmed to PJ Media that the testimonies of two black men arrested in the case of Empire star Jussie Smollett have flipped the story. Rather than considering Smollett the victim of an attack, it appears that police may now see him as the perpetrator of a hoax.
“We can confirm that the information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the Empire case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation,” Chicago Police chief communications officer Anthony Guglielmi told PJ Media. “We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”
There it is: @Chicago_Police rep @AJGuglielmi confirming that Jussie Smollett's story is being investigated as a hoax. https://t.co/pFl3KL49w4 @PJMedia_com pic.twitter.com/bA9lZ0OipA
— Tyler O'Neil (@Tyler2ONeil) February 17, 2019
Two law enforcement sources confirmed to CNN that police are considering the Jussie Smollett case a hoax. Police now think the two men they arrested last week — Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo and his brother Abimbola “Abel” Osundairo — were paid by Smollett to attack him. Chicago Police believe the Empire star orchestrated the assault. A police spokesman told PJ Media the department will release a statement within the hour.
The Osundairo brothers, arrested Wednesday, were released without charges on Friday after police discovered “new evidence.” The men are cooperating with law enforcement.
As late as Friday afternoon, police were considering Smollett a victim rather than the perpetrator of a crime. At that point, however, his story had already started to fall apart.
Smollett claims that on January 29, masked white attackers wearing MAGA hats had screamed, “This is MAGA country!” before seizing him, putting a noose around his neck, and pouring an unknown bleach-scented liquid on him.
Smollett turned over redacted phone records to police, but Guglielmi said those records “do not meet the burden for a criminal investigation as they were limited and heavily redacted,” ABC7 Chicago reported.
This week, the New York Post discovered a suspicious hot sauce bottle containing a bleach-scented liquid that may have been planted at the scene to corroborate Smollett’s story.
Sources say the Osundairo brothers bought the rope found around Smollett’s neck at a hardware store nearby and red hats at a beauty supply store.
NEW: Sources say at least one of the brothers purchased the rope used in Jussie Smollett incident at Crafty Beaver hardware store the weekend of Jan 25th.
Plain red hats worn by brothers were purchased from an Uptown beauty supply store. @cbschicago https://t.co/22zRPCcYTe pic.twitter.com/69e47cCuxO
— Charlie De Mar (@CharlieDeMar) February 17, 2019
Smollett had just appeared on Good Morning America when police leaked the news about the rope.
Huge props to the Chicago PD for waiting until right after Jussie Smollett went on Good Morning America to start leaking that they had evidence indicating that Smollett orchestrated the attack on himself. pic.twitter.com/VJzFmrO2zP
— Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) February 17, 2019
On Friday, Smollett hired Michael D. Monico, the lawyer representing President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen. Smollett denies hiring a defense attorney, but Monico confirmed he had been hired by Smollett.
That should do wonders for Smollett’s credibility…
This news also presents interesting questions for the politicians and activist groups who seized on the Smollett story as evidence of widespread hate and intolerance.
What's the over/under on when @glaad and the @NAACP condemn #JussieSmollett for trivializing and casting doubt on legitimate claims of racism and homophobia?
— Larry Elder (@larryelder) February 17, 2019
Hey @CoryBooker, still think #JussieSmollett case is grounds for legal reform? https://t.co/pFl3KL49w4 @PJMedia_com
— Tyler O'Neil (@Tyler2ONeil) February 17, 2019
Update 10:40 p.m. EST:
Donald Trump Jr. condemned the media’s credulity on this.
It appears that Jussie Smollett tried to manufacture a hate crime to make Trump supporters look bad and most of the media not only uncritically accepted his lies as facts for weeks, but attacked those who questioned the validity of his false story.
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) February 17, 2019
Mark Dice tweeted a montage of credulous media reports.
The Daily Caller’s Amber Athey mocked The Washington Post, predicting that it will report the Smollett news with a “Conservatives pounce” headline.
“Conservatives POUNCE on Jussie Smollett hoax, proving the actor’s point about our country’s culture of hate.”
– WaPo, probably
— Amber Athey (@amber_athey) February 17, 2019
Update 12:57 a.m. EST: Attorneys representing Smollett released a statement from their client denying he played a role in the attack.
Attorneys representing #JussieSmollett release this statement… 1/2 pic.twitter.com/RRvAWlAquc
— Daniel Lopez (@4danlopez) February 17, 2019
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.