Jussie Smollett is sharing his side of the story. The Empire star sat down with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America on Thursday, February 14, for his first TV interview since he was attacked in a possible hate crime.
Smollett, 36, started off by saying that he is “pissed off” before admitting that he is not only upset with his attackers, but also the people who have suggested that he might not be telling the truth.
“It’s like, you know, at first, it was a thing of, like, ‘Listen, if I tell the truth then that’s it, ‘cause it’s the truth,’” he said. “Then it became a thing of like, ‘Oh, how can you doubt that? Like, how do you — how do you not believe that? It’s the truth.’ And then it became a thing of like, ‘Oh, it’s not necessarily that you don’t believe that this is the truth, you don’t even want to see the truth.’”
At one point during the interview, the actor became visibly emotional as he discussed the reason he was initially hesitant to call the police. “We live in a society where as a gay man, you are considered, somehow, to be weak,” Smollett said as he fought back tears. “And I’m not weak. I am not weak. And we — as people — are not weak.”
As he recalled the night the incident took place, Smollett said that he fought back after one of the attackers “punched him in the face,” and after some “tussling,” the fighting “just stopped.” He told Roberts, 58, that the attack “felt like minutes but was probably, like, 30 seconds.” He added that he didn’t notice the rope around his neck until after the two attackers ran off.
“They called me a f—-t, they called me a n–ga. There’s no which way you cut it,” he continued. “I’ve heard that it was a date gone bad, which I also resent that narrative. I’m not gonna go out and get a tuna sandwich and a salad to meet somebody. That’s ridiculous. And it’s offensive.”
The “Good Enough” singer detailed the reason he decided to share his experience. “I think people need to hear the truth,” he said. “‘Cause everybody has their own idea. Some are healing and some are hurtful, but I just want young people, young members of the LGBTQ community — young, black children — to know how strong that they are.”
As for handing over his cellphone to police, Smollett explained that officials wanted “to give my phone to the tech for three to four hours.” He continued: “I’m sorry but — I’m not gonna do that. Because I have private pictures and videos and numbers: my partner’s number, my family’s number, my castmate’s number, my friends’ numbers, my private emails, my private songs, my private voice memos.”
Smollett was hospitalized in Chicago in the early hours of January 29 after two men shouted racial and homophobic slurs at him and physically attacked him. Police confirmed to Us Weekly that the assailants poured “an unknown chemical substance” on the star and wrapped a rope around his neck. He was released from the hospital later that day in “good condition” as detectives investigated the incident.
One day after the attack, Chicago police released two grainy images from surveillance cameras that showed “potential persons of interest wanted for questioning.” Smollett told Roberts during their discussion on Thursday that he doesn’t “have any doubt in my mind that that’s them.” More recently, authorities revealed that they were examining a hot sauce bottle filled with an unknown liquid that was found at the scene of the crime.
Smollett, who has continued to cooperate with police since the incident, released a lengthy statement to Essence on February 1 to thank fans for “the outpouring of love and support.”
“These types of cowardly attacks are happening to my sisters, brothers and non-gender conforming siblings daily,” he said. “I am not and should not be looked upon as an isolated incident.”
The singer, who came out as gay in 2015, returned to the stage on February 2 with a concert at the West Hollywood nightclub Troubadour. “I had to be here tonight,” he told the crowd. “I can’t let [them] win.”
The following week, Smollett went back to work on the set of Empire.
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