By now you’ve probably heard about the Jussie Smollett incident that took place in Chicago a few weeks ago. Naturally, people and news outlets across the country were outraged at what seemed like a homophobic and racially motivated attack on the TV star. Unfortunately, new information has since come to light through an investigation by the Chicago police that points to the entire attack being a hoax, which sucks for so many reasons its hard to even name them all here. Because this case has been so confusing, here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know, plus a timeline of events since the alleged attack last month.
Who Is Jussie Smollett?
Jussie Smollett is a queer biracial actor and singer who is most famous for playing Jamal Lyon in Empire. (Though, if what the Chicago PD say is true is true then that probably won’t be what he’s most famous for any longer.) The Smollett family consists of a long line of both actors and activists, and have been outspoken politically on causes such as HIV/AIDS prevention, ending apartheid, and more recently, Black Lives Matter. Unrelated but still interesting: Jussie Smollett was also in The Mighty Ducks.
WTF Has Been Going On?
Great question. Here’s a timeline of the events surrounding the attack, as well as information as it unfolded.
January 22: Before the attack , Smollett received a threatening letter to the set of Empire containing white powder that said “You will die black n*****.” The powder turned out to be crushed Tylenol.
January 28th: Smollett was hospitalized after being attacked by who he recalled to be two white men yelling racist and homophobic slurs at him. In his report to the police, he said they screamed “This is MAGA country” and called him a f**got Empire n*****.”
January 30th: Two days later Chicago police release the images of two persons of interest in the attack.
February 1st: Smollett makes the following statement to Essence:
“Let me start by saying that I’m OK. My body is strong but my soul is stronger. More importantly I want to say thank you. The outpouring of love and support from my village has meant more than I will ever be able to truly put into words. ”
He also doubles down on saying he is being factual and works to dispel rumors about the incident.
February 13th: Two Nigerian brothers are arrested in connection with the attack. This raises questions because Smollett had noted earlier that his attackers were white.
February 14th: Smollett gives the following interview to Good Morning America:
“It’s not necessarily that you don’t believe that this is the truth, you don’t even want to see the truth.” @JussieSmollett tells @RobinRoberts he’s “pissed off” about the attacks on him after details came out after his attack. https://t.co/3HbyU2SFxe pic.twitter.com/a2o949itIJ
— Good Morning America (@GMA) February 14, 2019
February 18th: Starting after the GMA interview, rumors begin to circulate and sources close to the Chicago PD begin leaking that the attacks were orchestrated and Smollett lied. This caused high profile people, like Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, who previously condemned the attacks to make a statement that they were reserving judgement until more facts came out.
.@eschor asks @CoryBooker to respond to reports that the Jussie Smollett attack may have been planned by the actor.
He called the attack a “modern day lynching” when the news broke. pic.twitter.com/8Zf8y7vhrv
— Megan Pratz (@meganpratz) February 17, 2019
February 19: Deadline reports that Smollett is cut from Empire episodes.
February 20th: The Chicago Police department confirms that Smollett is officially a suspect in his own attack. He is charged with disorderly conduct for filing a false report.
Case Update: Jussie Smollett is now officially classified as a suspect in a criminal investigation by #ChicagoPolice for filing a false police report (Class 4 felony). Detectives are currently presenting evidence before a Cook County Grand Jury. pic.twitter.com/FhDcbBKsuU
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) February 20, 2019
February 21st: Smollett turned himself over to Chicago police and was arrested in the early hours of the morning. In a news conference, Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says police believe Smollett faked bot h the letter and the attack because he was “dissatisfied with this salary.”
Update: According to Chicago police officials, Jussie Smollett wrote a fake letter and paid for the staged attack because he was “dissatisfied with his salary.” https://t.co/MyPbjMeUKh
— Twitter Moments (@TwitterMoments) February 21, 2019
Wow. This whole story is obviously a huge, tumultuous rollercoaster and people are understandably hurt and confused. But let’s make one thing clear: no one should feel bad for having initially believed these reports, even if they end up being false. We’re human and when we hear of someone being violently attacked, we believe that person because the vast majority of crimes are not falsely reported.
If you or someone you know is the victim of a hate crime, you can find resources to help you here.
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On Tuesday, it was reported that Empire actor Jussie Smollett was viciously attacked in an apparent hate crime in Chicago. As we previously reported, the alleged attackers hit him in the face, reportedly shouted, “This is MAGA country,” poured an “unknown substance” all over him (which has been suspected to be bleach) and tied a rope around his neck. Smollett transported himself to the hospital after suffering injuries.
Since the news broke, fans, celebrities, and activists have vocalized their support for Jussie and their condemnation of the alleged attack.
what happened to jussie makes me really fucking sick to my stomach. i can’t believe shit like this is really still happening everyday. what kind of world ? sending all of the healing energy / love i possibly can and hoping for change. what can we do ? tell me & i’m there.
— Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande) January 29, 2019
Because of the likelihood that the attack was a hate crime, the whole incident has taken on a deeper meaning. Presidential candidate Kamala Harris offered her support, while making the declaration that we must take on the hatred that fuels these type of attacks.
.@JussieSmollett is one of the kindest, most gentle human beings I know. I’m praying for his quick recovery.
This was an attempted modern day lynching. No one should have to fear for their life because of their sexuality or color of their skin. We must confront this hate.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) January 29, 2019
In the few days since the news was first reported, we’ve all been concerned about how Jussie Smollett is doing, and today he broke his silence about the incident. In a statement to Essence, he said ““Let me start by saying that I’m okay. My body is strong but my soul is stronger. More importantly I want to say thank you. The outpouring of love and support from my village has meant more than I will ever be able to truly put into words.”
Smollett goes on to say that he is cooperating fully with law enforcement to ensure that justice is served in this case, and notes that he is working to stop the spread of inaccuracies about the attack. He doesn’t go into detail about what happened, but leaves us with a poignant message of support and strength:
“As my family stated, these types of cowardly attacks are happening to my sisters, brothers and non-gender conforming siblings daily. I am not and should not be looked upon as an isolated incident. We will talk soon and I will address all details of this horrific incident, but I need a moment to process. Most importantly, during times of trauma, grief and pain, there is still a responsibility to lead with love. It’s all I know. And that can’t be kicked out of me.”
While Jussie continues to recover from this horrible incident, we continue to send him nothing but love and support. Hopefully, we can use this tragedy as an opportunity to come together against the hatred that is still too prevalent in our society.
Stay strong @JussieSmollett. We are standing with you and demanding justice for this horrific attack. #IStandWithJussie https://t.co/MKL9tNtbRB
— Sherrilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) February 1, 2019
If you are the victim of a hate crime or want to help those who are, VictimConnect, the Human Rights Campaign, and Hate Crime Help are available to help.
Images: Shutterstock; ArianaGrande, KamalaHarris / Twitter