Fox Stands by Jussie Smollett: ‘He Is Not Being Written Out of the Show’

Fox, the network that airs the show “Empire,” is standing by Jussie Smollett, one of the drama’s stars, amid a swirl of questions about whether the attack he reported late last month occurred as he said.

“Jussie Smollett continues to be a consummate professional on set and as we have previously stated, he is not being written out of the show,” 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment said in a joint statement released on Wednesday.

A representative for Mr. Smollett declined to comment.

Multiple outlets had reported that Mr. Smollett was being written out of the show in the aftermath of an announcement by the Chicago police that the trajectory of the investigation had changed.

[Read our timeline about the Jussie Smollett case here.]

The police have said they are now seeking to interview Mr. Smollett again after hearing the accounts of two brothers, initially identified as possible suspects in the attack and who were later released. Multiple media outlets have reported that the brothers told investigators that Mr. Smollett staged the incident — in which they participated — in the pursuit of public attention.

Mr. Smollett, through his lawyers, has denied any role in coordinating an attack. The police have not commented publicly about the brothers’ accounts.

The chief spokesman for the Chicago Police Department, Anthony Guglielmi, said Wednesday that the investigation was still being classified as an aggravated battery and potential hate crime. He said that detectives were in an “ongoing dialogue” with Mr. Smollett’s legal team and that they were “trying to be as amenable as possible” in helping to corroborate new information they had received.

As to whether Mr. Smollett was being cooperative, Mr. Guglielmi said, “It would depend on an individual’s definition of cooperation.”

The case began on Jan. 29, when Mr. Smollett told the police that he had been assaulted in downtown Chicago by two masked men who yelled homophobic and racist slurs at him. The case has received a firestorm of national attention.

Reports last week, citing anonymous law enforcement officials, said the detectives suspected Mr. Smollett may have perpetrated a hoax as a response to being written off “Empire.” Fox called the assertion “patently ridiculous” at the time and Fox’s statement on Wednesday was a significant show of support for the actor even as public opinion about the incident has shifted.

Lawyers for Mr. Smollett released a statement late Friday saying, “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.”

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