The Chicago Police Department is investigating whether out actor Jussie Smollett conspired with two men to fake an attack on him in the early hours of January 29, according to Chicago's ABC and CBS affiliates and TMZ, but Chicago PD blasted the reports.
Detectives are speaking to the two individuals photographed walking in the area of downtown Chicago near where the incident took place, according to TMZ. Smollett told police he was attacked by two men who hurled racist and antigay slurs at him, screamed "MAGA," beat him, poured an unknown liquid on his body, and hung a rope around his neck.
Responding to rampant internet rumors, Smollett recently denied he faked the attack. But multiple sources told ABC7 that Smollett staged the beating because was upset he was being written off of Fox's Empire, which films in Chicago. Smollett reported that a threatening letter directed towards him was sent to Empire's production office a week before the attack.
"The idea that Jussie Smollet has been, or would be, written off of Empire is patently ridiculous," a Fox spokesperson tells The Advocate. "He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him."
Police on Wednesday allegedly raided the homes of the two men captured on camera, and ABC7 says at least one of them worked on Empire; TMZ says both men worked on the show. The two men were "picked up" by police at O'Hare International Airport on Wednesday evening for questioning; neither has been arrested or faces charges. TMZ identified the men as Nigerians and said they flew to the African nation the day of the attack; the police allegedly followed their movements and were waiting at O'Hare when they returned to Chicago.
But the Chicago Police Department disputes this reporting.
"Media reports [about] the Empire incident being a hoax are unconfirmed by case detectives," the Chicago Police Department said in a statement. "Supt Eddie Johnson has contacted @ABC7Chicago to state on the record that we have no evidence to support their reporting and their supposed CPD sources are uninformed and inaccurate."
ABC7 also reports Smollett didn't appear for a Thursday interview with Chicago detectives, but Smollett's representatives disputed this to The Advocate, saying he was never scheduled to speak with police today.