The reason “Empire” Jussie Smollett staged a racist and anti-gay attack was he wanted to raise his public profile in hopes of getting paid more, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson revealed Thursday.
“I’m offended by what’s happened, and I’m also angry,” Johnson told reporters at a news conference. “This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve.”
He noted the damage was accentuated by the weeks of media coverage the Smollett story received.
“Celebrities, news commentators, and even presidential candidates weighed in on something that was choreographed by an actor,” Johnson said.
Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Book of New Jersey referred to Smollett’s alleged attack as a “modern day lynching,” The Hill reported.
Johnson recounted that the television star first sought attention through a false letter “that relied on racial, homophobic and political language.”
When that failed to gain traction in the media, Smollett paid two men $3,500 to stage the attack.
“Why?” the police superintendent asked. “This stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary, so he concocted a story about being attacked.”
“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett staged the alleged attack because he was “dissatisfied with his salary,” Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson says https://t.co/wUehx4GFlq pic.twitter.com/z0ZXnrTiCo
— CNN (@CNN) February 21, 2019
“When we discovered the actual motive, quite frankly it pissed everybody off,” Johnson said. “Those are resources and time spent that we will never get back.”
Smollett, who has been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, claimed one of the attackers yelled, “This is MAGA country.”
He further alleged his assailants “poured an unknown chemical substance” on him and put a noose around his neck.
Cook County John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr. set Smollett’s bond at $100,000 and ordered him to surrender his passport.
The Wall Street Journal reported the actor makes about $100,000 per episode, or about $1.8 million per year, according to a source close to the “Empire” program.
Trump tweeted on Thursday, “.@JussieSmollett – what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!? #MAGA.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 21, 2019
Twentieth Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment, which produces “Empire,” have been supportive of Smollett throughout the investigation.
However, in a statement to The Journal, the studio said, “We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.”
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