The Chicago Police Department reported Thursday morning that "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett faked a hate crime to "promote his career" because he was unhappy with his salary. He paid two men $3,500 to conduct a "choreographed" attack. Smollett was arrested and charged with felony disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report.
EDDIE JOHNSON, CHICAGO POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: As I look out into the crowd, I just wish that the families of gun violence in this city got this much attention because that’s who really deserves the amount of attention that we are giving to this particular incident.
This morning, I come to you not only as the superintendent of the Chicago Police Department but also as a black man who has spent his entire life living in the city of Chicago.
I know the racial divide that exists here, I know how hard it has been for our city and our nation to come together. I also know the disparities and I know the history.
This announcement today recognizes that 'Empire' actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career. I’m left hanging my head and asking why.
Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?
How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile? How can an individual who has been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face by making these false claims? Bogus police reports cause real harm. They do harm to every legitimate victim who is in need of support by police and investigators as well as the citizens of this city.
Chicago hosts one of the largest Pride parades in the world, and we’re proud of that as a police department and also as a city. We do not nor do we ever tolerate hate in our city, whether that hate is based on an individual’s sexual orientation, race or anything else. So I’m offended by what has happened and I’m also angry.
I love the city of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department, worts and all, but this publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn't earn and certainly didn't deserve. To make things worse, accusations within this phony attack received national attention for weeks. Celebrities, news commentators, and even presidential candidates weighed in on something that was choreographed by an actor.
First, Smollett attempted to gain attention by sending a false letter that relied on racial, homophobic, and political language. When that didn't work, Smollett paid $3500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago's reputation through the mud in the process. And why? This stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary. So he concocted a story about being attacked.
Now, our city has problems, we know that. We have problems that have affected people from all walks of life. And we know that. But to put the national spotlight on Chicago for something that is both egregious and untrue is simply shameful.
I’m also concerned about what this means moving forward for hate crimes. Now, of course, the Chicago Police Department will continue to investigate all reports of these types of incidents with the same amount of vigor that we did with this one. My concern is that hate crimes will now be met with a level of skepticism that previously didn't happen.
That said, Smollett was treated as a victim throughout this investigation until we received evidence that led detectives in another direction.
I couldn't be more proud of the unrelenting detective work that went into this investigation. I couldn't be more proud of every investigator that played a part in it. The detective work that we saw in this case is indicative of the work that our detectives do every day in this city. This case in particular involved hours of video evidence, which when combined with old fashioned police work, uncovered the truth. These detectives deserve all the credit in the world for carefully analyzing the leads and the evidence for weeks before coming to their conclusion. I'd also like to thank the FBI for their help in this investigation. The FBI's partnership with CPD has been pivotal in this case.
I only hope that the truth about what happened receives the same about of attention as the hoax did. I'll continue to pray for this troubled young man, who resorted to both drastic and illegal tactics to gain attention. I'll also continue to pray for our city, asking that we can move forward from this and begin to heal.