Representatives of 20th Century Fox Television said Thursday they are evaluating their options regarding “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett after Smollett was arrested and charged in Chicago with allegedly staging a hate crime by supporters of President Donald Trump.
“We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options,” the network’s statement said.
Only 24 hours earlier, the network had signaled its support for the actor, tweeting: “Jussie Smollett continues to be a consummate professional on set and as we have previously stated, he is not being written out of the show.”
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson lit into Smollett at a news conference Thursday morning, accusing the actor of paying two men to stage the alleged attack in the early morning hours of Jan. 29.
“First, Smollett attempted to gain attention by sending a false letter that relied on racial, homophobic and political language,” Johnson said. “When that didn’t work, Smollett paid $3,500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago’s reputation through he mud in the process. … This stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary. So he concocted a story about being attacked.”
Police said Smollett, 36, surrendered Thursday on a felony charge of disorderly conduct alleging he made a false police report. If convicted, he faces up to three years in jail and could be ordered to pay for the cost of the investigation, which involved more than 20 detectives over three weeks.
Smollett appeared in court Thursday, and was later released on $100,000 bond.
The entertainment website ET reported that he was headed to the location where the Fox show films in Chicago, and that the show’s production team was expected to meet later Thursday with Fox-TV to discuss Smollet’s future with the show.
Smollett has not made a public appearance since his arrest. His lawyers had said in a previous statement: “Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one, where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked. Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”
The actor, who is African-American and openly gay, claimed that he was walking to his apartment in the 300 block of East North Water Street in Chicago when two men walked up, yelled racial and homophobic slurs, hit him and wrapped a noose around his neck. Smollett said they also yelled, “This is MAGA country!” referring to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan.
Chicago police initially investigated the alleged hate crime, but authorities said the nature of the probe changed as they discovered more evidence.
The Los Angeles LGBT Center issued the following statement on Thursday:
“The confusing and deeply unfortunate circumstances surrounding Jussie Smollett should not cloud the sobering facts about hate crimes in our nation. According to a report released by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, hate crimes in our country’s largest cities increased for the fifth consecutive year in 2018 — with Los Angeles receiving its highest level of hate crime reports in a decade. Do not be distracted by Mr. Smollett’s alleged staged attack. Hate crimes, particularly against people of color and the LGBT community, are real and on the rise. These facts should alarm all of us.
“If you — or someone you know — have experienced an anti-LGBT hate crime, discrimination, harassment, or police misconduct, the Los Angeles LGBT Center can help protect and empower you. We provide comprehensive and affirming services, which includes assistance in filing a police report, to survivors of violence. For help or more information, contact the Center’s Anti-Violence Project at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (323) 993-7673.”
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