The investigation into the alleged hate crime against "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett took a dramatic turn over the weekend. Police sources told reporters that new evidence suggests Smollett hired two friends from Nigeria to stage an attack on him in the streets of downtown Chicago on January 29.
Smollett claimed he was targeted by two masked Trump supporters who physically assaulted him, tied a noose around his neck, poured bleach on him, yelled "This is 'MAGA' country," and called the actor a "f*****" and a "n*****."
"Sources say at least one of the brothers bought the rope used in the incident at Smollett's request. The sources also say the 'Empire' actor paid for the rope, which was purchased at the Crafty Beaver Hardware Store the weekend of Jan. 25. The brothers were paid $3,500 before leaving for Nigeria and were promised an additional $500 upon their return," CBS News Chicago reports.
Moreover, Chicago Police Chief Communications Officer Anthony Guglielmi confirmed "that the information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the Empire case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation."
The new revelations highlight Smollett's past comments following the attack. During an interview with Good Morning America's Robin Roberts, for example, the "Empire" star chastised "doubters" for questioning his dubious account of the alleged attack and suggested they wouldn't be skeptical if his "attackers" were "Muslim" or "Mexican" and not white Trump supporters.
"It's the attackers, but it's also the attacks. It's not that you don't believe this is the truth; you don't even want to see this is the truth," he told Roberts, later adding: "It feels like if I had said it was a Muslim, or a Mexican, or someone black, I feel like the doubters would’ve supported me a lot more, and that says a lot about the place that we are in our country right now."
Notably, four days following the alleged attack, Smollett performed a concert in West Hollywood and told the crowd that he "fought the f*** back," branding himself the "gay Tupac."
"Above all, I fought the f*** back," the actor told the audience, fighting back tears amid tremendous applause. "I'm the gay Tupac."
Smollett said the same during his GMA interview, making it clear that gay men are not weak and speaking highly of his advocacy for the LGBT community.
"The most important thing I can say is thank you so much, and I'm okay," Smollett said at the start of the West Hollywood show, according to USA Today. "I'm not fully healed yet, but I'm going to. I'm going to stand strong with you all. ... I had to be here tonight, y'all. I couldn't let those motherf***ers win. I will always stand for love. I will only stand for love."
According to The Guardian, "Smollett kept the tone mostly celebratory through his hour-long set before addressing the attack head-on toward the end of his hour-long set, when he told the crowd he wanted to clarify a few things. He said he was bruised but his ribs were not cracked. He went straight to the doctor but was not hospitalized, and physicians in both Chicago and Los Angeles cleared him to play but told him to be careful."