“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett has surrendered to Chicago police after a plot they say he invented, to increase his salary by staging a fake racial and homophobic attack on himself, was exposed.
Harvey Levin of TMZ — who initially broke the story — joined AM 790 KABC’s The Morning Drive with Jillian Barberie and John Phillips immediately after Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson’s press conference Thursday morning.
“I can tell you that he had a PR firm that quit on him when he said he was doing Good Morning America,” Levin told Jillian and John exclusively on AM 790 KABC. “They said, ‘Just don’t do anything,’ and he — I haven’t really talked about it — but they said, ‘Don’t do this!’ So this became a cause for him, and if what the police superintendent is saying is true… I’ve just never seen anything quite like it.”
Two brothers who knew Smollett told a Chicago grand jury that they were paid $3,500 to stage the fake hate crime. They were released by Chicago police without charges.
“If you’ve seen these brothers… I mean, one of them is a boxer, and we found this video we found of him,” Levin told Jillian and John. “He literally knocked someone out of a ring. So he could have killed Jussie Smollett if this were real. So you know, this was never designed — according to the brothers — to inflict injury.”
Smollett has been charged with a felony, disorderly conduct, after allegedly filing a false police report. Chicago police also suspect that Smollett sent a fake hate letter to himself as part of the hoax.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who was visibly angry, said during a televised press conference, “This announcement today recognizes that “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”Johnson cited Smollett’s dissatisfaction with his salary as a member of the “Empire” cast as the motive for the scheme. The industry publication “Variety” estimated in 2016 that Smollett was one of the lowest paid actors on the hit TV series earning just $20,000 dollars per episode.
TMZ’s Levin, speaking about the suspected deception, told The Morning Drive, “I’m not saying what’s true and what’s not true, and there’s got to be a trial and everything else, but if that is true, that’s one of the most breathtaking things I have heard in this business.”
Levin was a guest on The Morning Drive with Jillian Barberie and John Phillips on 790 KABC.
By Christina Kelley, KABC News.