UPDATED: Jussie Smollett is sticking to his story.
Addressing naysayers who doubt he was ever attacked, Smollett went on “Good Morning America” to talk to Robin Roberts about the an apparent hate crime. The “Empire” actor says he was assaulted by two men in Chicago as they spewed racial and homophobic slurs in late January.
Not long after the interview, Chicago Police said Thursday morning they have identified “persons of interest in the area” although they are “not yet suspects.” Spokesman Anthony Guglielmi added that the people of interest are currently being questioned.
“If I had said it was a Muslim or a Mexican or someone black, I feel like the doubters would have supported me a lot more,” Smollett said during the TV interview.
Police released photos of two persons of interest, who have yet to be identified. However, details remain scarce and some people have questioned the validity of Smollett’s story.
On “GMA,” Smollett said he saw a camera during the attack, but it was pointed the other way.
Smollett was allegedly on the phone with his music manager at the time the attack occurred. However, Smollett has refused to hand over his complete phone records to the police, which has given doubters ammunition for negative chatter on social media. Earlier this week, Smollett submitted phone records from within the hour of the early morning attack, but Chicago law enforcement said the records were “limited and heavily redacted.”
“I‘m sorry, but I’m not going to do that,” Smollett said on the morning show about turning his phone over. “I have private pictures and videos and numbers. My partner’s number, my family’s numbers, my castmates’ numbers, my friends’ numbers, my private emails, my songs.”
Smollett also gave reason as to why he believes he was targeted: Trump.
“I come really, really hard against 45,” he said, referring to the president. “I come really, really hard against his administration, and I don’t hold my tongue.”
According to Smollett’s music manager, in an earlier interview with Variety, he said that the two assailants shouted, “This is MAGA country” at Smollett during the assault.
According to a statement released by the Chicago Police Department following the incident, Smollett was beaten by two men who approached him by yelling out “racial and homophobic slurs” at approximately 2 a.m. on the 300 block of E. North Water St., and proceeded to assault Smollett and “poured an unknown chemical substance” on him. The two men are said to have put a rope around Smollett’s neck before fleeing, and then Smollett transported himself to a hospital.
Asked by Roberts how he’ll feel if his attackers are never caught, Smollett got very emotional and said he hopes footage is found so that people can stop using the word “alleged” in describing the incident.