As questions and rumors arose Thursday around “Empire” star Jussie Smollett’s claim that two men attacked him on Jan. 29, the TV network and studio behind the Fox drama gave its full support to the actor and musician.
In addition, Chicago Police disputed a TV news report that cited multiple anonymous sources saying Smollett staged the attack because he was being written out of the show.
Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television, which produces the Chicago-based family drama, sent USA TODAY a statement Thursday in response to a question raised in a Chicago TV news report that multiple anonymous sources were saying Smollett staged the attack because he was being written out of the show.
“The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of “Empire” is patently ridiculous. He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him,” the statement said.
More: Jussie Smollett recounts violent attack on ‘GMA’: I saw the rope ‘and I started screaming’
In a tweet, Anthony Guglielmi, chief communications officer for the Chicago Police Department, disputed the tweet by a reporter from Chicago’s ABC affiliate, which said sources were saying that Smollett and two men staged the attack and were being questioned by police. Guglielmi said the Chicago police superintendent told the news outlet that its sources are “uninformed and inaccurate.”
“Media reports (about) the Empire incident being a hoax are unconfirmed by case detectives. Supt Eddie Johnson has contacted @ABC7Chicago to state on the record that we have no evidence to support their reporting and their supposed CPD sources are uninformed and inaccurate,” Guglielmi’s tweet said.
The Chicago ABC reporter who tweeted the initial report of sources saying the attack was a hoax later tweeted that Johnson had called the station to say Smollett “is considered a victim and the police investigation” is continuing.
Smollett’s representative, Pamela Sharp, told USA TODAY that the actor answered “routine follow-up questions” from Chicago police Thursday and “continues to cooperate.”
Earlier Thursday, ABC’s “Good Morning America” aired portions of an interview Smollett gave to anchor Robin Roberts. The actor, who is black and openly gay, recounted details of the attack, which he said included racist and homophobic slurs, and also said those doubting him “don’t even want to see this is the truth.”
“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,” he said.
More of the Smollett-Roberts interview will be broadcast Friday morning (12:37 a.m. EST/PST) on “Nightline,” along with any news updates on the police investigation, according to ABC News.
Contributing: Cydney Henderson, Andrea Mandell, Erin Jensen