“Empire” star Jussie Smollett was in tears as he talked about the alleged attack he calls a racially motivated and homophobic incident.
Smollett sat down with “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts and addressed questions being raised about the Chicago. incident, saying he is “pissed off” at being attacked.
“At first, it was a thing of, like, ‘Listen, if I tell the truth then that's it, 'cause it's the truth.’ Then it became a thing of like, ‘Oh, how can you doubt that? Like, how do you — how do you not believe that? It's the truth.’ Then it became a thing of like, 'Oh. It's not necessarily that you don't believe that this is the truth; you don't even want to see the truth,'” Smollett said.
Smollett reported he was attacked and beaten at a Chicago underpass last month. Police released grainy surveillance video images of two "persons of interest," whom they have since brought in for questioning.
"These individuals are not yet suspects but were in [the] area of concern and are being questioned," Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Thursday in a tweet. "Investigation continues."
Smollett gave his first TV interview as police are analyzing an empty bottle of hot sauce found near the scene of the assault.
The bottle was found just this week by a newspaper reporter and is said to smell of bleach. Smollett told police the attackers splashed him with a liquid that may have been bleach.
He says he had just left a Subway sandwich shop when he was confronted by two men.
“I kept walking and then I heard ‘f*** 'Empire' n*****,’ I see the attacker, masked, and he said, 'This is MAGA country n***** ' punches me right in the face,” he said.
He said he struggled with the attackers in the dark underpass.
“There was a second person involved who was kicking me in my back. And then it just stopped and they ran off,” he said. “And then I look down and I see there's a rope around my neck.”
A newly released photo shows a rope burn on Smollett's neck, and a cut and a bruise on his cheek.
He said he hoped the attack had been caught on a surveillance camera nearby.
“The detective told me the camera inside of the casing was facing north. So they didn’t have it. So that was disappointing,” he said.
The 36-year-old actor said he wanted to correct published reports that the two men wore “Make America Great Again” hats.
“I never said that. I didn’t need to add anything like that,” he said. “I didn’t need a MAGA hat to add to some racist sundae.”