The alleged attack on actor Jussie Smollet continues to be investigated by the Chicago Police Department as a possible hate crime.
The reported Jan. 29 attack happened early in the morning in Streeterville, Chicago. In an interview on “Good Morning America” with Robin Roberts, Smollet recounted that he was out to grab a bite to eat at a local Subway when he heard an individual yell “racial and homophobic slurs” at him.
According to TMZ, an article posted in Vulture magazine says the individual continued, allegedly shouted “this is MAGA country,” birthed from the slogan President Donald Trump coined during his presidential campaign.
According to a statement from the Chicago Police Department, the alleged masked-attacker then began hitting Smollet in the face, when Smollet realized that there was a second individual who “kicked him in the back.” An “unknown chemical substance” was poured onto Smollet and a rope was placed around his neck before the two individuals fled.
“Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime,” a police statement said via CNN.
Smollet, 35, who is black and openly gay, plays Jamal Lyon on FOX’s “Empire.” The GLAAD organization issued a statement to Smollet’s team in support of the actor in light of the alleged attack.
“Jussie is a true champion for LGBTQ people and is beloved by the community and allies around the world,” the group said, via The New York Times.
With much support for Smollet, came waves of speculation regarding the legitimacy of the details of the alleged attack.
Suspicion of the validity of Smollet’s account grew when he initially refused to hand his phone over to authorities after he confessed to being on the phone with his manager at the time of the attack.
Police officials were also unable to find any video footage at the location of the alleged attack, even while the area was heavily populated with “private surveillance cameras.”
Members of the Chicago community where the alleged attack occurred have expressed thoughts that suggest Smollet’s story may not be entirely factual.
“I don’t believe it happened the way he said it did,” said Agin Muhammad, via The New York Post, who lives near Smollet. “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.”
Smollet expressed anger about the attack and the backlash of doubt that has come from people who don’t believe his story.
“It’s the attackers, but it’s also the attacks,” said Smollett, to Robin Roberts. “It’s not that you don’t believe this is the truth; you don’t even want to see this is the truth.”
According to an article posted by The New York Times, the Chicago Police Department reported 41 hate crimes in 2017. Of the 41 crimes, 16 of the attacks were connected to race or ethnicity while eight were related to sexual orientation or gender identity.
Queens College students had plenty to say on the topic.
“It’s really messed up how the media and police are questioning the legitimacy of this attack because there’s not film evidence,” said Gabi Mendoza, a senior psychology major. “If it were a white person who said that a gang of black people attacked them, they would most definitely believe him.”
Samba Siby, a junior media studies major, was skeptical of Smollet’s reluctance to share his phone records.
“If the attack happened and you have proof of it, you would want to show the cops everything you have…but then again, in Hollywood, people would do anything for a little bit of fame,” said Siby.
Daniel Matos, a junior accounting major, connected the recent controversy to politics.
“With this presidency, it just brought out the ugly side of America… it’s just sad, I honestly don’t know what else to say.” said Matos.
Smollet responded to speculation surrounding his hesitancy to report the alleged attack sooner. His manager had called the police nearly 40 minutes after Smollet was assaulted. By that time, Smollet was already back in his apartment, still wearing the rope around his neck. His reasoning rested in a stereotype he wanted to dispel.
“We live in a society where as a gay man you are somehow considered to be weak. I am not weak and we as a people are not weak,” Smollet said on “Good Morning America.”
Since the alleged attack, it has been proposed that it was all a hoax orchestrated by Smollett himself. The alleged attackers were revealed to be extras from the show Empire, as police raided their apartment and found bleach and rope in the attackers’ apartment. Smollett is going to court in Chicago and has hired Chicago defense attorneys Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson to defend his case against his perpetrators.