According to multiple reports, on Thursday Chicago police questioned two “persons of interest” in the investigation into the alleged attack on actor and singer Jussie Smollett, best known for his role on Fox’s “Empire.” One of the men reportedly worked with Smollett on the show.
CWB Chicago reports that police say the two men were detained at O’Hare airport on Wednesday night and taken in for questioning. CWB Chicago speculates that Chicago police may have known for a week that the attack on Smollett was staged and who initiated the attack. The Chicago Tribune reports that police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the two men “are not considered suspects at this time.”
According to TMZ, “Chicago PD has confirmed … the 2 men taken in for questioning are the same men in the surveillance video screen grab. The PD confirms transportation records, along with interviews with Jussie and other witnesses, led to the ID of the 2 men.”
“Sources connected to the case tell us the actor, not Jussie, was picked up by Chicago PD Wednesday night right after he flew into O’Hare Airport,” TMZ reported Thursday. “We’re told Jussie was brought in Thursday morning for additional questioning. Another man who was with the actor at O’Hare was also taken in for questioning.”
TMZ notes that police used “rideshare and/or taxicab records” to identify the two persons of interest and track them the night Smollett was attacked.
Guglielmi, Chicago Police Department’s chief spokesperson, has said that the “heavily redacted” phone records from the night of the attack that were submitted by Smollett to the police this week were not sufficient to meet the burden of a criminal investigation. However, according to CWB Chicago, “investigators have already received Smollett’s complete phone records via a subpoena served on his service provider.”
CWB Chicago quotes one source who claims that before he provided police with his phone records, Smollett downloaded his calls on a spreadsheet and then deleted certain phone calls. “He did the job for them because then they only had to focus on the numbers he deleted,” the source told the outlet.
As the Tribune reported, when he appeared on “Good Morning America” on Thursday, Smollett said that the two men from the grainy video were his attackers. In response to host Robin Roberts asking how he was sure, he said, “Cause … I was there. For me, when that was released, I was like, ‘OK, we’re getting somewhere,’ you know what I’m saying? So, yeah, I don’t have any doubt in my mind that that’s them. Never did.”
Deadline noted that Smollett also claimed he was attacked because he is outspoken against President Trump. Smollett stated, “I come really, really hard against 45. I come really, really hard against his administration, and I don’t hold my tongue.”
When Smollett stated, “I’m pissed off,” host Robin Roberts asked, “What is it that has you so angry? Is it the attackers?”
“It’s the attackers,” he responded. “It’s also the attacks. It’s like, at first it was a thing of like, ‘Listen, if I tell the truth , that’s it, cause it’s truth.’ Then it became a thing of like, ‘Oh, How can you doubt that? How do you not believe that? It’s the truth.’ And then it became a thing of like, ‘Oh, it’s not necessarily that you don’t believe that this is the truth; you don’t even want to see the truth.’’”
Referencing his claim that the attackers yelled, “This is MAGA country,” Smollett said, “I didn’t need to add anything like that. They called me a f****t. They called me a n*****. There’s no which way you cut it, I don’t need some MAGA hat as the cherry on a racist sundae.”
When Roberts asked him why he waited 30 minutes before he alerted police, Smollett replied, “There’s a level of pride there. We live in a society where as a gay man you’re somehow considered to be weak, and I’m not weak, and we as a people are not weak.”
UPDATE: Multiple reports say police are now investigating whether the attack was “staged.”