Empire star Jussie Smollett reportedly claimed he was brutally attacked by two white men wearing ski masks in Chicago around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29, 2019. According to TMZ, one of the men shouted racist and homophobic slurs before the two assailants fractured Smollett’s rib, tied a rope around his neck, and poured a liquid (possibly bleach) on him. In an interview with Chicago police, Smollett claimed the attackers yelled, “This is MAGA country,” a reference to President Donald Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again.” The Chicago Police Department said it was investigating the assault as a possible hate crime.
As the news broke, politicians and celebrities alike publicly condemned the alleged attack and voiced their support for Smollett. Sen. Kamala Harris called it “an attempted modern day lynching.” During an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, actress Ellen Page suggested Vice President Mike Pence shoulder some of the blame for the incident due to stance on LGBT issues. “Sending love to Jussie and the Smollett family after this horrific attack. We support you and pray that you find peace and justice,” singer John Legend tweeted.
However, chatter soon began to emerge that Smollett’s version of events might not be entirely truthful when he reportedly refused to hand over his phone to authorities. Less than a month later, on Feb. 21, 2019, Jussie Smollett was arrested, and the following month, the charges against him were dropped.
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