(CHICAGO) — Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson blasted Empire star Jussie Smollett in an emotional press conference on Thursday, revealing that the actor sent a threatening letter to himself, and paid two men to stage an attack against him, as a “publicity stunt…to promote his career.”
An angry Johnson said, “Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” adding that Smollett orchestrated the attack because he was “dissatisfied with his salary.” According to HuffPost, he earned $65,000 per episode.
Smollett told the police, and then ABC’s Robin Roberts, that on January 29, two men shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him before they tied a noose around his neck, and poured bleach on him. Smollet also claimed the assailants used the phrase “MAGA country,” a reference to President Donald Trump’s “Make American Great Again” slogan.
But as detailed in the press conference, police work revealed that the “racist assailants” were two brothers of Nigerian descent, who were paid $3500 by Smollett to stage the phony attack.
Johnson, who spoke not just as the city’s top cop, “but as a black man in Chicago,” wondered aloud at the presser, “Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations? … How can an individual who’s been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in the city in the face with these false claims?”
Johnson called the accusations “a scar” that “Chicago…didn’t earn.”
Smollett turned himself in at 5:15 a.m. local time and was charged with a felony for making a false police report. He faces several years in prison for that charge. But sending himself the letter — which was filled with a white powder that turned out to be crushed-up Tylenol — would likely bring further charges, authorities explained.
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