Jussie Smollett claimed that he was attacked in an apparent hate crime around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29 in Chicago

By Natalie Stone
February 14, 2019 09:35 PM
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Fox is denying that Jussie Smollett was being written off of Empire amid reports by Chicago-based news outlets that he staged his attack in a bid to keep his job.

“The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of Empire is patently ridiculous,” reads a statement from 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment and obtained by PEOPLE on Thursday. “He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him.”

A representative for Smollett has yet to respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

The denial from Fox comes shortly after ABC7 Chicago reporter Rob Elgas reported that according to sources, two persons of interest who are being questioned about Smollett’s alleged attack conspired with the actor to stage the incident.

“BREAKING: Multiple soucres tell @ABC7Chicago Eyewitness News Jussie Smollet and the 2 men who are being questioned by police staged the attack – allegedly because his character was being written out of the show Empire,” tweeted Elgas.

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In a second tweeted, Elgas wrote, “MORE: Someone familiar with the investigation says Smollet was a no-show for an interview earlier today with detectives. All of this coming hours after Smollett spoke to @GMA speaking out in his first media interview taking aim at those who doubted his story.”

The Chicago Police Department has also clarified that at this time, it is “unconfirmed” that the incident was staged.

“Media reports [about] the Empire incident being a hoax are unconfirmed by case detectives,” the Chicago Police Department said in a statement obtained by The Advocate. “Supt Eddie Johnson has contacted @ABC7Chicago to state on the record that we have no evidence to support their reporting and their supposed CPD sources are uninformed and inaccurate.”

Additionally, Smollett’s reps denied ABC7’s reporting that “Smollet was a no-show for an interview earlier today with detectives” to The Advocate, and clarified that he was was not scheduled to speak with authorities on Thursday.

Also on Thursday, Chicago Police Department Chief Communications Officer Anthony Guglielmi said on Twitter that “Through s meticulous investigation, #ChicahoPolice 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.”

WATCH: Police Release Photos of Persons of Interest in Alleged Assault of Empire Actor Jussie Smollett

“Important for media reporting: The people of interest are alleged to be in the area where a crime was reported. They are not considered suspects at this time as they are currently being questioned by detectives. We remain in communication with the alleged victim,” he continued in a tweet.

Later, Gugliemi said, “Media reports anout the Empire incident being a hoax are unconfirmed by case detectives. Supt Eddie Johnson has contacted @ABC7Chicago to state on the record that we have no evidence to support their reporting and their supposed CPD sources are uninformed and inaccurate.”

At around 2 a.m. in Chicago on Jan. 29, Smollett transported himself to a doctor after he said he was the victim of an apparent hate crime.

The Chicago Police Department previously confirmed in a statement that a member of the hit Fox show was involved in a “racially-charged assault and battery.”

“Two unknown offenders approached him and gained his attention by yelling out racial and homophobic slurs towards him,” the statement continued. “The offenders began to batter the victim with their hands about the face and poured an unknown chemical substance on the victim. At some point during the incident, one of the offenders wrapped a rope around the victim’s neck. The offenders fled the scene.”

Early Thursday morning, Smollett appeared on Good Morning America for his first in-depth, televised interview since the incident occurred.

After detailing what occurred and hitting back at critics who have questioned the accuracy of his account, Smollett got emotional, confessing his fears that his assailants won’t be found.

The Chicago Police Department had confirmed that Smollett, who is gay, was involved in a “racially-charged assault and battery.” They have also released two photos of the persons of interest; however, the images did not show the individuals’ faces.

“I want that [surveillance] video found so badly for four reasons,” Smollett said in the interview. “Number one, I want them to find the people that did it. Number two, I want them to stop being able to say ‘alleged attack.’ Number three, I want them to see that I fought back. And I want a little gay boy who might watch this to see that I fought back. It does not take anything away from people who are not able to do that, but I fought back. They ran off, I didn’t.”

“Learn to fight. Learn to be a fighter,” he continued, addressing young gay men. “I am not advocating violence at all, so let’s be clear about that. If you’re going to die, fight until you do. If you don’t fight, you have no chance. I have fought for love. I’m an advocate. I respect too much the people — who I am now, one of those people — who have been attacked in any way.”

After being asked if one can heal if their attackers are never found, Smollett broke down.

“I don’t know. Let’s just hope that they are, you know what I’m saying? Let’s not go there yet,” he said, crying.

“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. So I’m just going to be left here like this? I’m just going to be left here? They get to go free, go about their life, and possibly attack someone else. And I’m here left with the aftermath? That’s not cool to me. That’s not okay.”

“I understand how difficult it will be to find them but we’ve got to,” he insisted. “I still want to believe, with everything that happened, that there’s something called justice.”