Chicago Police have dismissed reports that an attack on Empire actor Jussie Smollett was a hoax.
The US TV star needed hospital treatment last month after a suspected racist and homophobic attack.
Local media reports about the attack being staged are “unconfirmed”, Chicago police’s chief communications officer said. “We have no evidence to support their reporting.”
Mr Smollett said he’s been “forever changed” by the attack.
Superintendent Eddie Johnson has contacted local media in Chicago to tell them their “supposed” Chicago Police sources are “uninformed and inaccurate”.
“I will never be the man that this did not happen to,” the 36-year-old actor said in his first interview since two men punched him, poured a chemical substance over him, and put a rope around his neck.
As time has passed and no progress has been made with the investigation, some have cast doubts about Jussie’s version of events.
Recounting the night publicly for the first time, Jussie told American network ABC that he hesitated to call police after it happened because of pride.
“We live in a society where as a gay man you are considered somehow to be weak. And I am not weak. And we as a people are not weak.”
When police came he says he left the rope around his neck and was still wearing clothes that smelled of bleach.
“I went down to where it happened and I walked them through exactly what happened.”
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Jussie says he’d just got back to Chicago that day, and after getting home realised there was no food in the house. He says he ended up at a Subway sandwich shop getting some food – something people have questioned as strange.
He told Good Morning America it’s “ridiculous” that people think he’d lie about his reasons for being outside at 2am in freezing temperatures.
“Subway is open 24 hours for a reason, so that when you’re hungry at night and you ain’t got no food, you go to Subway,” he said.
Jussie thinks he would’ve been doubted less if he said his attacker “was a Muslim, or a Mexican, or someone black”.
“And that says a lot about the place that we are in our country right now.”
There were claims Jussie had told police his attackers were wearing the Make America Great Again (MAGA) hats that are associated with President Donald Trump.
“I never said that. I didn’t need to add anything like that,” Jussie said.
“I don’t need some MAGA hat as the cherry on top of some racist sundae.”
But the attackers did say “This is MAGA country”, he said.
The actor thinks he was targeted because he’s outspoken about President Trump – who when asked about the attack on Jussie said “That’s horrible, it doesn’t get worse”.
“I don’t know what to say to that. I appreciate him not brushing over it,” Jussie said of Trump’s comments.
Writers of US show Empire have stood behind the actor since the attack – and after reports that plans to write Jussie off the show led to the hoax, they came out in support of him again.
Two people who were in the area at the time of the attack are being questioned by police, but they are not yet considered suspects.
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