“This is ‘MAGA’ country!”
Jussie Smolett rehearsed his attack in advance with the two Nigerian brothers who allegedly carried it out, CBS Chicago reported Sunday.
According to the local TV station, Smollett promised to pay the men, who are bodybuilders and actors on his Fox TV show “Empire,” $4,000 to stage his “MAGA”-themed assault. He gave them $3,500 before they left for Nigeria on Jan. 29, the day of the attack, with the other $500 to be paid upon their return, sources said.
The brothers reportedly told Chicago police that the attack was supposed to happen before Jan. 29, and they acted it out in the days beforehand. Sources said one of the brothers held the rope and poured bleach on Smollett during the attack, while the other donned a red hat and shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him.
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Smollett, who directed an episode of “Empire” last season, allegedly paid for the rope, which was purchased from the Crafty Beaver Hardware Store in the Ravenswood neighborhood the weekend of Jan. 25. The red hat was bought at an uptown beauty supply store.
Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi acknowledged Saturday that newly discovered information has “shifted the trajectory” of the probe, ABC reported. He also confirmed that the brothers have a “relationship” with Smollett.
Smollett, 36, claimed in an emotional appearance Thursday on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that he was jumped outside his Chicago apartment by two men who called him racial and homophobic slurs and shouted, “This is ‘MAGA’ country!” They then threw a noose around his neck and doused him in an unknown “chemical substance,” he said.
The brothers, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, were arrested Wednesday on their return from Nigeria and identified as potential suspects. Their home was also raided. But the men were released Friday without charges and restored to their status as persons of interest. They are reportedly cooperating in the investigation and holed up at an undisclosed location.
The Osundairo reportedly agreed to cooperate with Chicago police after they were confronted with evidence that they bought the rope allegedly used in the attack on Smollett at a local hardware store. The police have moved from investigating the attack as a potential hate crime to trying to figure out whether the actor made up the whole story, reports said.
But Smollett has continued to play the victim. The actor is “angered and devastated” and has been “further victimized” by reports that the men told police that he enlisted them to attack him, his attorneys said in a statement released late Saturday night. They outright denied the claims against their client.
“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,” began Smollett attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson. “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.”
The lawyers went on to express disbelief at the notion that Smollett could have be so betrayed by the brothers, with whom he worked on “Empire.”
Meanwhile, conservatives have been busy calling out Democrats – from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York – for their credulous and outraged responses to Smollett’s allegations. Some, like Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, went as far as to use the actor’s unsubstantiated claims to tar conservatives in general.
"When one of the most famous black and gay men in America is not safe, the message is clearer than it has ever been." The dangerous lies spewing from the right wing is killing & hurting our people.
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) January 30, 2019
This attitude has been ascendant on parts of the political left, where identity-based grievances have sometimes been deemed immune to evidence. But if the misreporting and hysterical reaction to the Covington Catholic High School students scandal is any indication, widespread mea culpas from liberals and the media shouldn’t be expected any time soon.
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