Jussie Smollett sat down with Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts Thursday for his first televised interview since he said he was attacked by two men last month in Chicago.
The Empire actor told Roberts he’s angry people continue to question his account of the attack.
“I’m pissed off. It’s the attackers, but it’s also the attacks,” he said. “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.”
The actor and singer said he believes he was targeted because he frequently criticizes President Donald Trump.
“I come really, really hard against 45. I come really, really hard against his administration, and I don’t hold my tongue,” he stated.
Smollett, who is African-American and openly gay, told police he was walking down the street in Chicago on the morning of Jan. 29, when two men approached him and started yelling racial and homophobic slurs. He said the attackers beat him, doused him with a chemical and wrapped a rope around his neck.
The actor told Roberts he thinks more people would believe his account if he said the attackers had been Muslim, or people of color.
“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,” he said. “And that says a lot about the place where we are in our country right now.”
Smollett said he never described the attackers as wearing MAGA hats, which has been widely reported. Although he did say they told him “this is MAGA country.”
“I didn’t need to add anything like that,” he said. “They called me a f-ggot. They called me a n-gger. There’s no which way you cut it, I don’t need some MAGA hat as the cherry on top of a racist sundae.”
Roberts asked him if there was any doubt in his mind about what motivated the attack.
“Who says ‘f-cking Empire f-ggot?” he said. “This is MAGA country n-gger.”
Smollett turned his phone records over to the Chicago Police Department on Feb. 11., two weeks after the attack. Detectives said they needed his phone logs to verify he was talking to his manager when the incident occurred.
Asked why it took him so long to hand over the records — which police rejected because they said the logs had been “heavily redacted” — Smollett insisted it was about privacy.
“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 stated. “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 then got emotional over the prospect that the perpetrators might never be arrested.
“I was talking to a friend and I said, ‘I just want them to find them.’ And she said, ‘Sweetie, they’re not going to find them,’ ” he said. “That just made me so angry because (that means) I’m just gonna be left here with this?“
He said he just wants the men brought to justice.
“So, I understand how difficult it will be to find them,” he added, “but we gotta. I still want to believe, with everything that has happened, that there’s something called justice.”
After the interview, GLAAD released a statement saying Smollett has been “doubly victimized” by doubts surrounding his account of the attack.
“Jussie Smollett was victimized first in a hate-motivated and violent attack in Chicago and has since been doubly victimized as the subject of speculation by the media industry and broader culture,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.
Also Thursday, Chicago police announced they have identified two persons of interest in the case.
“Detectives have identified the persons of interest in the area of the alleged attack of the Empire cast member. These individuals are not yet suspects but were in area of concern and are being questioned. Investigation continues,” tweeted CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.