Jussie Smollett’s Family Criticizes Media Amid Backlash Over Potential Hate Crime Hoax

Jussie Smollett’s siblings took to social media to show their support as questions continue to mount about the alleged attack on the "Empire" star. 

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt
Jussie Smollett pictured attending an event at the Fontainebleau Hotel in January 2019

Amid the ongoing controversy surrounding actor Jussie Smollett, two of his siblings are criticizing the media for raising doubts about whether the actor was the victim of a hate crime or, perhaps, whether he staged the whole thing.

Smollett, 36, told police that he was attacked by two unidentified men while leaving a Subway restaurant in Chicago at around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29. However, his story has recently come under scrutiny after media reports emerged suggesting he may have had a hand in planning the attack. For his part, the “Empire” actor maintains that he was the victim of a hate crime and two of his siblings, actress Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Jocqui Smollett, took to Instagram early Tuesday to critique the media, seemingly in response to the continued criticism.

Both shared images of a quote attributed to Malcolm X, which reads, “This is the media, the irresponsible media. It will make the criminal look like he’s the victim and make the victim look like he’s the criminal. If you aren’t careful, the media will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

Jocqui also posted a tweet that supports Jussie’s claim.

“I have a feeling even if we had video of Jussie being attacked...y’all would still discredit him. Because it’s easier to believe what aligns with your contempt for survivors of hate crimes, sexual abuse, etc who happen to be LGBTQ+, disabled, or women,” it reads.

Smollett’s family previously released a statement supporting him soon after the alleged attack, calling it a “racial and homophobic hate crime.” The actor initially told police that the two men left a noose around his neck and yelled, “This is MAGA country,” during the encounter. He then reportedly transported himself to a hospital where he was treated for minor injuries. The incident has been under investigation, but authorities say that they have since been unable to locate any footage of the alleged attack.

Chicago police arrested two men - identified by multiple outlets as Nigerian brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo - on Wednesday who they believe were captured on video in the vicinity of the attack that night. While initially considered as possible suspects in the attack, the brothers, who reportedly worked with Smollett on “Empire,” were released without charges two days later after police discovered “new evidence,” according to CNN, citing law enforcement sources. Those sources say police now believe Smollett paid the brothers to carry out the attack, according to the outlet.

Police have discovered proof that the brothers purchased the rope used to form the noose Smollett said his attackers left around his neck, according to CNN. As for Smollett’s alleged motive, the brothers reportedly told police that the actor staged the attack because he felt a threatening letter he'd received had gotten enough attention, according to ABC7 in Chicago. The men said that Smollett paid them for their involvement, according to the outlet. Police are reportedly no longer considering the two brothers as suspects in the case.

Smollett has maintained his innocence, with his attorneys saying in a statement that the actor was “devastated” to learn that his attackers were people he was familiar with.

“As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with,” their statement read. “He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.”

One of the brothers interviewed by police is a personal trainer who Smollett hired to help him prepare for a music video, according to a statement from Smollett’s attorneys.

“It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie’s complicity,” they said.

While police have not confirmed that Smollett had anything to do with the alleged attack, they are seeking a follow-up interview with the actor, which has not yet happened. Chicago PD spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi did say Tuesday that authorities were investigating a tip that Smollett was seen in the elevator of his apartment building the night of the incident with the two brothers who were later arrested and released.

[Photo: Getty Images]

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