Jussie Smollett staged a racist and homophobic attack on himself as a publicity stunt to boost his own career, according to Chicago police.
The openly gay Empire actor was arrested on Thursday after he was charged with filing a false police report about the attack he claimed to have suffered on January 29.
He told police two masked men attacked him while yelling homophobic and racist slurs at him in a Chicago street and wrapping a rope around his neck while shouting, “This is MAGA country,” in a reference to the Trump administration.
But in the last week suspicion turned on the Empire actor himself and Smollett was taken into police custody on Thursday.
Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson slammed Smollett’s alleged actions and “lies” as “shameful” and “despicable” at an emotionally charged press conference.
“Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Johnson said.
“It makes you wonder what’s going on in someone’s mind to be able to do something like that.”
‘Dissatisfied with his salary’
Johnson said Smollett had sent a racist and homophobic threatening letter to himself at the studio lot of FOX, which airs Empire, a week before the attack.
After the letter didn’t attract enough attention, Smollett is then alleged to have paid two Nigerian brothers $3,500 to stage the hate crime and “drag Chicago’s reputation through the mud,” Johnson said.
“This stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with [his] salary [on Empire],” he said.
“This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve.”
Smollett has denied all the charges against him and was released on bail.
If convicted, he could face a prison sentence of one to three years and made to pay for the cost of the police investigation, the Associated Press reported.