Is 'Empire' Star Jussie Smollett's Story Falling Apart?
Chicago police say they will be requesting more phone records from "Empire" star Jussie Smollett regarding the racist and homophobic attack he allegedly faced two weeks ago. Smollett has turned over heavily redacted phone records, but evidence has begun to emerge suggesting his story was fabricated. Rumors are swirling that police are even considering charging him with filing a false report.
On Monday night, Fox 32 Chicago anchor Rafer Weigel reported that police "received cell phone records today from Smollett's camp. They were limited and redacted but detectives will analyze them."
Weigel had previously reported that the police superintendent plans to hold Smollett accountable if the investigation reveals he made a false report. "[Chicago Police Superintendent] Eddie Johnson says [Jussie Smollett] is still being treated as the victim in this case but if the investigation does reveal he made a false report he will be held accountable," he tweeted. That threat seems more likely.
Late Monday evening, ABC7 Chicago reported that an empty hot sauce bottle that smelled like bleach was found near the location of the alleged attack. Smollett had told police that the attackers — who wore "Make America Great Again" hats and screamed "This is MAGA country!" — had poured an unknown bleach-smelling liquid on him and put a noose around his neck after they yelled racist and homophobic slurs at him at 2 a.m. on January 29.
Chicago police confirmed a New York Post story about the hot sauce bottle.
"It's unclear if that is related to the incident as it was not discovered during any of the earlier canvasses but we took it for analysis," Chicago Police Department (CPD) spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. "The FBI is providing CPD with technical assistance on this case at our request. I'm not sure if the bottle went to their lab or one of ours."
As for the phone records, Guglielmi said, "We are very appreciative of the victim's cooperation, however, the records provided do not meet the burden for a criminal investigation as they were limited and heavily redacted. Detectives may be following up with him to request additional data to corroborate the investigative timeline."
Chicago police have not been able to identify any legitimate suspects in the case, nor have they been able to find any surveillance footage of the attack. There is speculation that the hot sauce bottle may have been placed after the fact to prop up the hoax if Smollett indeed made a false report.
Some locals smell a rat.
"I don’t believe it happened the way he said it did," Chicago resident Agin Muhammad told the New York Post. Muhammad reportedly lives in the same high-rise as Smollett.
"I’ve been in this neighborhood five years. I don’t believe it, not around here…. Half the people are gay and the other half are black."
In "Empire," Smollett plays a gay character, Jamal Lyon. The actor has also come out as gay.
Many Americans are waking up to the possibility that Jussie Smollett's story may be a hoax. Jeff Giesea, an entrepreneur who has written for NATO and the Harvard Business Review, tweeted, "The weight of evidence supports what we’ve suspected all along: This is a hate hoax. [Jussie Smollett] should be arrested for filing a false police report & sued. In this era of disinfo, these hoaxes and their media enablers must be held accountable."
Conservative blogger Matt Walsh laid out the basic incongruity of Smollett's story: "he claims he was attacked by white Trump-loving racists in one of the most liberal parts of one of the most liberal cities in America. No similar attacks have been reported by anyone in the town."
"He's on camera walking down the street. There is only a 60 second gap where he is not on camera, he claims the attack just so happened to occur during that gap," Walsh continued. "But cameras don't pick up anyone fitting the description of the suspects. If they exist, they must have vanished into thin air. Also, Smollett claims he was on the phone during the attack but didn't want to turn his phone over to police."
"Finally he did turn his phone records over, but redacted them so heavily as to make them useless. Oh and his own neighbors think the story is totally bogus," Walsh added. "If this guy wasn't a celebrity, police would have already charged him with filing a false report. The story was clearly bogus from the get go, and only became more bogus with each new revelation."
Quillette's Andy Ngo noted that the very person who said he could hear the attackers over the phone himself refused to let police examine the phone.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.