“Empire” star Jussie Smollett insisted Thursday that he was targeted by two men shouting racial and gay slurs — and “This is MAGA country” — because of his public comments against President Trump.
“I come really, really hard against 45,” Smollett told ABC’s “Good Morning America”, his first interview since the Jan. 29 incident in Chicago. “I come really, really hard against his administration, and I don’t hold my tongue.”
Smollett sat down with Robin Roberts to detail for the very first time what happened in the early-morning attack — an incident that has been met with skepticism by some.
The 36-year-old singer-actor, who is openly gay, said he popped into Subway near his apartment to grab a bite after flying back home. He was on the phone with his manager Brandon Moore as he left the sandwich shop and crossed the street.
“I heard ‘Empire,’ and I don’t answer to ‘Empire.’ My name ain’t ‘Empire,’ and I didn’t answer,” Smollett recalled. “I kept walking, and then I heard ‘f—-t, Empire n—r.’ So, I turned around and I said, ‘The f–k did you just say to me?’”
One of the masked men shouted, “This is MAGA country, n—-r!” before punching him in the face.
“So I punched his ass back,” Smollett said. “And then we started tussling and it was very icy. We ended up tussling by the stairs, fighting, fighting, fighting. There was a second person involved who was kicking me in my back, and then it just stopped. And they ran off.”
Smollett grabbed his phone and told Moore that he’d just been “jumped” — and that’s when he said he noticed the rope around his neck.
“I started screaming. I said, ‘There’s a f—ing rope around my neck!”
Asked whether he was certain of his attackers’ motive, Smollett said, “I can only go off of their words. I mean, who says, ‘F—t Empire n—r, This is MAGA country, n—r,’ ties a noose around your neck and pours bleach on you? And this is just a friendly fight?”
Smollett admitted that he was hesitant to turn over his phone records to police to corroborate his claims. Earlier this week, cops confirmed they received the records but said they were “heavily redacted” and insufficient for a criminal investigation.
“They wanted me to give my phone to the tech for three to four hours. I’m sorry but I’m not gonna do that,” the singer said. “Because I have private pictures and videos and numbers: my partner’s number, my family’s number, my castmate’s number, my friends’ numbers, my private emails, my private songs, my private voice memos.”
Smollett said he was certain the men shown in a grainy photo released by Chicago Police are his attackers.
“I was there. For me, when that was released, I was like OK, we’re getting somewhere,” he said. “I don’t have any doubt in my mind that that’s them. Never did.”
Police are investigating the incident and hunting for the alleged attackers — but Smollett acknowledged they may never be arrested.
“I just want them to find them,” Smollett said he told a friend. “And she said, ‘Sweetie, they’re not going to find them.’ And that just made me so angry. Because I’m just going to be left here with this? I’m going to be left there with — so they get to go free and go about their lives and possibly attack somebody else? And I’m here left with the aftermath of this bull? That’s not OK to me.”
Critics, including Smollett’s own neighbors, say his story doesn’t add up.
Smollett told Roberts that he was “pissed off” by the naysayers.
“You don’t even want to see the truth,” he said.
Cops release footage of 'people of interest' in Jussie Smollett attack
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