FILE PHOTO: Jussie Smollett performs a tribute to President’s Award recipient John Legend at the 47th NAACP Image Awards in Pasadena, California February 5, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo
(Reuters) – Chicago police dismissed a media report on Thursday that officers were investigating whether “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett staged being physically assaulted because he was being written out of the television show.
Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said there was no evidence to support the report by Chicago ABC7 television, which cited multiple unnamed sources.
“(Police Superintendent) Eddie Johnson has contacted @ABC7Chicago to state on the record that we have no evidence to support their reporting and their supposed CPD sources are uninformed and inaccurate,” Guglielmi said in a tweet.
Smollett, an openly gay African-American who plays a gay character on the hip-hop drama “Empire,” told police that two men shouted racist and homophobic slurs and put a rope around his neck on Jan. 29.
In an interview with “Good Morning America” that aired on Thursday, Smollett said he was angry that some people doubted his story, and he suggested the disbelief might come from racial bias.
Twentieth Century Fox Television, the producer of “Empire” released a statement saying: “The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of EMPIRE is patently ridiculous. He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him.”
Chicago police are questioning two individuals who surveillance cameras showed were in the area where Smollett said he was assaulted, authorities said on Thursday.
The names of the two men have not been released and police have not found any video footage of the assault, which they say is being investigated as a hate crime.
“They are not considered suspects at this time as they are currently being questioned by detectives,” Guglielmi said on Twitter.
Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; Additional reporting by Jill Serjeant in Los Angeles and Andrew Hay in New Mexico; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Lisa Shumaker