Jussie Smollett Staged Attack for a Salary Bump, Chicago Police Say

February 21, 2019, 4:56 PM UTC

Empire actor Jussie Smollett faked a widely publicized attack on himself in an effort to increase his salary on the hit show, Chicago police said Thursday.

Smollett surrendered to authorities earlier after being charged with one count of felony disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. He both faked a letter using racist and homophobic language, mailing it to the Chicago studio where Empire is filmed, and paid $3,500 to two Nigerian brothers to stage the attack, said Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson.

Smollett was “dissatisfied with his salary,” said Johnson, and “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career”. Authorities say the two brothers who staged the attack are cooperating in the investigation.

Smollett has, thus far, stuck by his story, saying he was attacked when he went to buy food late at night in downtown Chicago, adding that one attacker told him “this is MAGA country”. Initially, he received a wave of support, but suspicions began to grow when police could find no video footage of the attack.

Police are now calling on the actor to publicly apologize for the tale.

Empire actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger to promote his career,” Johnson said. “I am left hanging my head and asking why? Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations? How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile? How can an individual who has been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face by making these false claims?”

Police aren’t the only ones demanding an apology. President Donald Trump took to Twitter to react to the news as well.

Smollett faces up to three years in jail and fines if convicted. Fox Television has not yet commented on the matter.