Jussie Smollett falsely claimed he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack in an effort to boost his “Empire” salary, Chicago police said Thursday.
“This stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said at a news conference. “So he concocted a story about being attacked.”
Smollett had claimed to Chicago police last month that two men beat him, tied a rope around his neck and poured an unknown chemical substance on him.
But weeks after the alleged attack on the 36-year-old performer, CNN reported, citing police sources, that authorities believed Smollett paid the pair of men to stage an attack on him. Police said Thursday that Smollett paid $3,500 to two men for a bogus attack.
Smollett was arrested Thursday after being charged a day earlier with felony disorderly conduct for filing a false police report.
Johnson blasted Smollett on Thursday, telling reporters, “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?”
Smollett, Johnson said, “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”
Smollett's representatives didn't immediately respond to ITK's requests for comment in the wake of the actor's arrest.
“We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options," 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment said in a Thursday statement, when asked to respond to Smollett's arrest and his "Empire" employment status.
Johnson noted how Smollett’s claims ignited intense media coverage, with everyone from President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger says Trump 'winning' because so many Republicans 'have remained silent' Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol MORE to several 2020 presidential candidates weighing in on news of the assault.
When asked about the attack, Trump had called it “horrible,” while Sens. Cory BookerCory BookerDOJ announces agencywide limits on chokeholds and no-knock entries Fighting poverty, the Biden way Top Senate Democrats urge Biden to take immediate action on home confinement program MORE (D-N.J.) and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisRepublicans caught in California's recall trap Harris facilitates coin toss at Howard University football game Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol MORE (D-Calif.), both 2020 White House contenders, each referred to it as a "modern-day lynching.”
“Celebrities, news commentators and even presidential candidates weighed in on something that was choreographed by an actor,” Johnson said Thursday.
“This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve,” he said.
Trump weighed in on the Smollett case again following Thursday's press conference, saying he insulted "tens of millions of people" with his false claims.
At a Thursday afternoon bail hearing, a judge set Smollett's bond at $100,000, ordered him to surrender his passport and forbade any contact with the two men alleged to have staged the attack.
He could reportedly face one to three years in prison if convicted on the false police report charge.
—Updated at 3:46 p.m.