“If I had said it was a Muslim, a Mexican, or someone black, I feel like the doubters would support me a lot more.”
Chicago police on Friday announced that two Nigerian brothers being held for questioning about last month’s attack on Jussie Smollett have gone from persons of interest to potential suspects.
The department said in a statement that detectives have “probable cause” that the men may have committed a crime. A number of media outlets have reported that the brothers are Nigerian and TMZ confirmed they are black.
The police did not specify what charges the men might face. But the revelations threaten to contradict Smollett’s strong suggestions in an emotional interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday that his attackers were white men. According to TMZ, the actor has explicitly described the men as white in the past.
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Smollett, 36, told host Robin Roberts that two men jumped him outside his Chicago apartment on Jan. 29. He said the men punched and kicked him while shouting “This is MAGA country” along with racist and homophobic slurs. Smollett is black and gay,
The actor also said he thought his story would have been questioned less if the attackers had been members of a minority group.
“I feel like if I had said it was a Muslim, a Mexican, or someone black, I feel like the doubters would support me a lot more, and I feel like that’s an issue in our country right now,” he told host Robin Roberts.
When Roberts asked Smollett about surveillance footage that police last month said showed two persons of interest in his case – which they were investigating as a possible hate “crime” – the actor said he had no doubt those were the men who attacked him.
Police have said that their potential suspects were tracked down based on footage from surveillance footage near the site of the attack.
According to police sources, detectives are investigating the possibility that Smollett staged the incident with the help of the Nigerian brothers, who per their attorney, know the actor from working on his Fox TV series “Empire” and have also spent time with him at a gym. The men were reportedly extras on the show.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Jussie Smollett said on “Good Morning America” that his attackers were white. In fact, Smollett only implied as much, and according to TMZ, he said as much explicitly in the past.
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