(NEW YORK) — Jussie Smollett spoke directly to his “doubters” in an exclusive interview with Robin Roberts that aired on Good Morning America Thursday, just over two weeks after the Empire star told police he was attacked in what authorities are investigating as a suspected hate crime.
In his first interview since he told police he was attacked last month, the singer and actor said he was “heartbroken” when he found out that people questioned the details of his story.
Smollett said the attack happened on Jan. 29, at around 2 a.m. as he was leaving a Subway restaurant in Chicago. He said the attackers put a noose around his neck and poured an unknown substance, likely bleach, on him. Then he claims they used their hands, feet and teeth as weapons in the assault, according to the incident report, which ABC News obtained last week via a Freedom of Information Act request.
Smollett claimed the attackers also yelled, “This is MAGA country,” during the attack — a reference to President Donald Trump’s “Make American Great Again” slogan.
To Roberts, he denied early claims about the incident: no, the alleged attackers were not wearing Make America Great Again hats and no, he did not have cracked ribs.
He addressed the doubters by saying, “…it feels like if I had said it was a Muslim, or a Mexican, or someone black, I feel like the doubters would have supported me …A lot more. And that says a lot about the place that we are in our country right now.”
He added, “It’s not necessarily that you don’t believe that this is the truth, you don’t even want to see the truth.”
Others suggested that he may have lied in his explanation for being outside at 2 a.m. in sub-zero Chicago weather, but Smollett said “that’s ridiculous.”
“I’ve heard that it was a date gone bad, which I also resent…” he said.
Smollett also confirmed reports that he was initially reluctant to contact the police or handover his cellphone to help with the investigation, the latter of which could have proved or disproved the “MAGA Country” claims.
“They wanted me to give my phone to the tech for three to four hours. I’m sorry but — I’m not gonna do that,” he said. “Because I have private pictures and videos and numbers: my partner’s number, my family’s number, my castmates’ number, my friends’ numbers, my private emails, my private songs, my private voice memos.”
He also revealed that he didn’t want to call the police at first, but his friend and creative director, Frank Gatson, did so on his behalf. When police arrived, responding officers said they found Smollett in his apartment with stained clothing and a “white rope draped around” his neck, according to the report.
Smollett said he was still in a state of shock and left the rope on because he wanted police to see.
The musician said he believes the two potential persons of interest in a photo released by police in the days after the attack are the perpetrators.
“I don’t have any doubt in my mind that that’s them,” Smollett said. “Never did.”
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