Empire actor Jussie Smollett sat down with Good Morning America‘s Robin Roberts two weeks after he suffered a Chicago attack that’s being investigated as a hate crime. Smollett has accused two assailants of hitting him over the head while wearing ski masks and yelling homophobic and racial slurs, along with placing a noose around his neck and pouring bleach on him. Despite the Chicago PD stating that they have “no reason to doubt” the statements made by Smollett and his manager, a vocal contingent remains skeptical that the assault happened. Presumably, these folks take issue with Smollett not handing over his phone records and the unfortunate fact that the attackers haven’t been found, although police are still seeking these two men for questioning.
The actor and singer, who previously insisted that he’s remained “100% factual and consistent” while speaking to law enforcement, told Roberts that he’s not only angry about being physically attacked but at how some have assailed him with doubts. He also believes that if his attackers weren’t white, then perhaps those doubters would be behaving differently:
“I’m pissed off. It’s the attackers, but it’s also the attacks. Like, you know, at first it was the thing of like, listen, if I tell the truth then that’s because it’s the truth. Then it became a thing of, like, how can you doubt that? How can you not believe that? It’s the truth. Then it became a thing of, like, it’s not necessarily that you don’t believe that this is the truth. You don’t even want to see the truth.”
“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 much more. A lot more. And that says a lot about the place that we are in our country right now.”
Smollett, who has been supported by countless public figures in solidarity, including Umbrella Academy star Ellen Page (who blamed VP Mike Pence for his policies and views that she thinks contributed to the normalization of homophobia), also takes umbrage in the below clip at those who keep calling this an “alleged attack.” He stresses that he fought back, and his attackers fled, and he hopes that he can inspire young gay men to not only learn to defend themselves if necessary but “learn to fight for what you believe in.”
He then shed tears while describing how a friend told him that his attackers probably wouldn’t be found by law enforcement. He admitted to feeling “angry” about that inevitability while wondering, “So, I’m just gonna be left here with this?” Despite everything that’s gone down, however, Smollett hopes for a different outcome. “I want to believe,” he declared. “With everything that has happened, that there is something called justice.”
The Chicago PD has released a blurry photo of two men that they’re seeking for questioning in relation to the attack. They’re asking anyone with relevant information to call 312-717-8382 or report tips anonymously at cpdtip.com.
UPDATE – 12:00pm EST: Chicago PD Chief Communications Officer Anthony Guglielmi reports that the department has identified the two persons of interest who are wanted for questioning (but they’re not considered to be suspects at this time).