The siblings of Empire actor Jussie Smollett are attacking blaming the media amid reports that their embattled brother staged an attack against himself in Chicago last month.
Both Jocqui Smollett and Jurnee Smollett-Bell reposted a quote on Instagram attributed to Malcolm X, in which the late Muslim minister and activist is critical of the media. “This is the media, an irresponsible press. It will make the criminal look like he’s the victim and make the victim look like he’s the criminal. If you aren’t careful, the media will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”
Malcolm X uttered the phrase during a 1964 speech in Harlem and used the words press and newspapers instead of “media” as stated in the quote shared by the Smollett siblings.
Smollett-Bell, who played Nicole Wright in the smash HBO series True Blood, then shared a screenshot from her brother of a tweet in support of the Empire star. “I have a feeling even if we had video of Jussie [Smollett] being attacked…y’all would still discredit him,” the tweet written by “@imgionni states. “Because it’s easier to believe what aligns with your contempt for survivors of hate crimes, sexual abuse, etc who happen to be LGBTQ+, disabled, or women.”
The Smollett siblings’ words of support come as Jussie Smollett refuses to meet with Chicago police after detectives obtained “new evidence” while interrogating two Nigerian brothers — Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo — said to have helped orchestrate the assault.
CBS Chicago’s Charlie De Mar reported Saturday that at least one of the brothers bought the rope at Craft Beaver hardware store in the days leading up to the alleged staged attack. Smollett is said to have directed the purchase of the rope, and paid the brothers $3,500 and promised an extra $500.
Smollett, who is both African-American and gay, told police that two masked men shouted racist and anti-gay insults at him and poured an unknown chemical substance on him as he made his way back from a restaurant early on the morning of January 29. The actor claimed his assaulters looped a rope around his neck and told him “This is MAGA country!” before running away.
Smollett’s lawyers say their client was “angered” and “further victimized” by accusations that he staged the incident.
“As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with,” Smollett’s lawyers, Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson, told ABC News. “He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.”
“One of these purported suspects was Jussie’s personal trainer who he hired to ready him physically for a music video,” the statement continued. “It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie’s complicity.
The Fox Broadcasting Company, the network that broadcasts Empire, will reportedly keep Smollett on as a series regular, as allegations against him swirl. “Jussie was supposed to have 9 scenes and a big musical number in the second to the last episode — which is being shot now — but, 5 of his scenes have been cut, and his musical number has been 86’d,” according to TMZ.
Smollett could receive up to three years in prison if he is found to have filed a false report with police, according to Illinois State law.