WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump told reporters that the attack this week on “Empire” star Jussie Smollett was “horrible” and “doesn’t get worse.”
“I can tell you that it’s horrible. It doesn’t get worse,” Trump said in response to a question on Thursday from April Ryan, Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks.
The Chicago Police Department has released two images from surveillance video of “potential persons of interest” in the attack of Smollett.
The attack is being characterized as a possible hate crime, and involved two men yelling out “racial and homophobic slurs” at Smollett, pouring an “unknown chemical substance” on him, and wrapping a rope around his neck, according to the Chicago Police Department. In a follow-up interview with police, Smollett also told investigators that he heard attackers shout “MAGA country.” MAGA stands for Make America Great Again, President Trump’s campaign slogan.
ABC News reported on Thursday that police obtained video that shows Smollett walking across the street from two possible “persons of interest.” For about a minute, Smollett walked out of the frame and “reappears on another camera ‘wearing a rope like a neck tie.'” The network also reported that Smollett has declined to hand over his cell phone to detectives.
Chicago police released photos of the “persons of interest” on Wednesday. They said that the people were “in area of the alleged assault & battery,” which took place early on Tuesday morning.
Photos of people of interest who were in area of the alleged assault & battery of Empire cast member. While video does not capture an encounter, detectives are taking this development seriously & wish to question individuals as more cameras are being reviewed pic.twitter.com/xJDDygtocr
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) January 31, 2019
Smollett’s music manager said that he was on the phone with the actor at the time he was attacked, and that he heard some of what transpired.
The manager, Brandon Z. Moore, told Variety that he gave his account to police authorities, but declined to go into details because it is an active investigation.
Moore told Variety that he heard those words “MAGA country” being used. “I heard that clearly. I heard the scuffle and I heard the racial slur,” he said.
Smollett transported himself to Northwestern University hospital and was listed in good condition. He is still scheduled to perform Saturday night at Los Angeles’ Troubadour.