Reports that Jussie Smollett staged an attack on himself in which he alleges two masked men put a rope around his neck, threw a chemical on him, and shouted “This is MAGA country!” remain unproven, however his screen time on Empire is being slashed as suspicions deepen.
Producers on the show are apparently circling the wagons following CBS Chicago’s bombshell report that Smollett allegedly paid two brothers $3,500 to stage the assault. The men claimed the actor told them to buy the rope and that he paid for it, the report said. Smollett and the brothers even rehearsed the incident, they allegedly told police.
Production sources now tell TMZ that Smollett, who was supposed to have nine scenes and a big musical number in the penultimate episode of Empire, has seen five of his scenes cut and the song excised completely in furious rewrites.
Smollett alleged that he was attacked after he went to a Subway restaurant early in the morning of Jan. 29.
In an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America broadcast last Thursday, he said, “I don’t need some MAGA hat as the cherry on some racist sundae.”
However, holes emerged in Smollett’s story.
It turned out that the two brothers who were picked up by cops, Ola and Abel Osundairo, knew Smollett, and Ola had previously appeared as an extra on Empire. They have allegedly admitted they were paid $3,500 to stage the attack.
The brothers told officials Smollett paid them the money before they briefly fled to Nigeria after the attack took place and the actor promised them an additional $500 upon their return, according to CBS Chicago.
And now a source tells CBS News that Smollett is suspected of staging the attack after being upset about a threatening racist letter, made of cutout print and sent to the show’s studio, which also depicted a man with a rope around his neck, didn’t get a “bigger reaction.”
“When the letter didn’t get enough attention, he concocted the staged attack,” a source told CBS investigative reporter Brad Edwards. CBS said other sources corroborated that information.
The Osundairo brothers told CBS: “We are not racist. We are not homophobic and we are not anti-Trump. We were born and raised in Chicago and are American citizens.”