TNT Pulls Jussie Smollett's Episode of Drop The Mic as Police Allege He Staged Hate Crime
TNT’s Drop The Mic is dropping Jussie Smollett‘s upcoming episode, PEOPLE confirms.
“We are pulling the episode in the interest of not being exploitative of an incredibly sensitive situation,” a representative for TNT said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. “We are holding on airing his episode for now and we are replacing it with the Raven Simon vs Ron Funches and Joey McIntyre vs Joey Fatone episode.”
The episode, which was supposed to air March 6, featured Smollett, Danielle Brooks (Orange Is The New Black), Clay Aiken (American Idol) and Ian Ziering (Beverly Hills, 90210). The network decided to pull the episode after the Empire star, 36, was arrested on Thursday and charged with filing a false police report about his alleged hate attack on Wednesday.
“We had an episode of Drop The Mic this season with Jussie that you’ll now (correctly) never see, but sadly it will shelve @clayaiken, WHO WAS A VERY GOOD RAPPER (at least for now),” executive producer Jensen Karp tweeted on Thursday.
Aiken also responded to the news, saying, “FINALLY, I win a competition on TV and dumb #JussieSmollett screws it up so no one will ever know!! Just look at all the damage he’s caused!! Ya know what, @DropTheMicTNT I think he was just afraid for America to see me spit my rhymes so well. #threatened #sabotaged.”
Smollett allegedly paid $3,500 to stage a “bogus” hate crime attack against him to draw attention to himself because he was dissatisfied with his salary, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said at a press conference Thursday.
At the press conference, Johnson assailed Smollett for allegedly “taking advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career. I’m left shaking my head and asking why.”
Johnson referred to the alleged staged attack as “a publicity stunt” that was “a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve.”
Prior to the attack, Johnson alleged Smollett sent a false letter to himself “that relied on racial, homophobic and political language.” Subsequently, said Johnson, Smollett allegedly choreographed the attack “because he was dissatisfied with his salary.”
The arrest news comes after Smollett and his legal team said they are gearing up to launch an “aggressive defense.”
“Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked,” Smollett’s attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson said in a statement given to PEOPLE on Wednesday.
“Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”
If Smollett is found guilty, falsifying a police report is a Class 4 felony which carries a potential sentence of one to three years in prison.
Just hours before the charges were approved by the state attorney’s office, Smollett was officially classified as a suspect in a criminal investigation by police for filing a false police report.
Police named the star as a suspect after confirming to PEOPLE that he was questioned again by prosecutors.
Last week, brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo — identified in surveillance footage on the night of the incident — were arrested and released without charges. The following day, reports emerged that the brothers claimed the Empire star paid them to stage the incident.
An attorney for the men, Gloria Schmidt, previously told CBS Chicago that the men know Smollett from working on Empire and occasionally go to the same gym as the actor. She did not respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment at the time.
“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,” according to a statement from Smollett’s lawyers. “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.”