One of the two men interviewed by the police in connection with a reported attack on the “Empire” star Jussie Smollett has appeared on the show, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department said late Thursday night.
The two who were questioned are brothers, according to Anthony Guglielmi, the spokesman. He added in a brief phone interview that the police had searched their homes on Tuesday. The two are currently not considered suspects, the spokesman said, adding that interviews would continue on Friday. He said he did not know what role the one man played on the Fox show.
Smollett said late last month that he had been assaulted by two men yelling homophobic and racial slurs in downtown Chicago. He told “Good Morning America” in an interview broadcast Thursday morning that he was “pissed off” by the attack and those who doubted his story, which is being investigated as a possible hate crime.
Hours after the segment was broadcast, the Chicago police said they were interrogating two men believed to be the persons of interest seen in surveillance video images released in late January.
Smollett expressed frustration that his story was being met with doubt.
“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,” Smollett told ABC’s Robin Roberts. “A lot more.”
In the interview, Smollett, who is black and gay, recounted for the first time publicly what happened that night and what he told the police.
He said that he landed in Chicago that evening and was picked up at the airport by his creative director, Frank Gatson. When they arrived at Smollett’s apartment, there was no food, Smollett said, so he went out to stop at Walgreens, which had closed. Then, Smollett said, he went to Subway to get a salad and on the way, he got on the phone with his manager, who was in Australia.
At this point, two men accosted him, he said. One of them yelled, “Empire,” and then shouted racial slurs. The attackers also told Smollett this was “MAGA country,” in a reference to President Trump’s campaign slogan.
Smollett said the altercation then became physical and that Smollett’s manager was on the phone the whole time. Before the two men ran off, Smollett said, they placed a rope around his neck and poured bleach on him.
“It felt like minutes but it probably was like 30 seconds,” Smollett said, adding, “I can’t tell you honestly. I noticed the rope around my neck and I started screaming.”
Previously, the most concrete development in the case had come within days of the incident, when the Chicago police released images of two men caught on surveillance video that were identified as “potential persons of interest.” Smollett said in the ABC interview that he was convinced that these were the two men responsible for attacking him.
“Because I was there,” Smollett said. “For me, when that was released, I was like, ‘O.K., we’re getting somewhere.’ I don’t have any doubt in my mind that that’s them. Never did.”
Earlier Thursday, Guglielmi said that the two men were identified as a result of a “meticulous investigation” and “a review of transportation records.”
Aside from the two men, evidence has been hard to come by. Last week, a New York Post reporter found an empty hot sauce bottle that smelled of bleach near the site where Smollett said the attack occurred. That bottle has been turned over to the police, but it has not been established as being connected to Smollett. The lack of witnesses, surveillance video and any other corroborating evidence has spurred theories that have frustrated Smollett.
“I’ve heard that it was a date gone bad, which I so resent that narrative,” Smollett said. “I’m not going to go out and get a tuna sandwich and a salad to meet somebody. That’s ridiculous and it’s offensive.”
Smollett has been criticized for not providing his full phone records to the authorities. This week, Smollett handed over what the Chicago police called heavily redacted records. A spokesman for the department said that they “do not meet the burden for a criminal investigation.” On ABC, Smollett defended his reluctance to give up more, citing privacy concerns.
“I have private pictures and videos and numbers,” Smollett said. “My partner’s number. My family’s number. My castmates’ numbers. My friends’ numbers. My private email. My private songs. My private voice memos.”
Law enforcement has continued to say publicly that thus far there is no reason to doubt Smollett’s story.
The incident has received an avalanche of national attention. Even Mr. Trump weighed in, saying in the Oval Office that the attack was “horrible” and that it “doesn’t get worse.”
On the president weighing in, Smollett said: “I saw it. I don’t know what to say to that. You know, I appreciate him not brushing over it.”
Smollett also addressed a threatening letter that was sent to Fox studios in Chicago before the attack, which the F.B.I. has taken the lead on investigating. The actor said that he thought the incident and the letter were connected and that the return address on the letter said “MAGA.”
“On the letter, it had a stick figure hanging from a tree with a gun pointing toward it with the words that says, Smollett Jussie, you will die,” Smollett said, adding that there was a racial slur.
The return address was “in big red caps,” Smollett said. “Did I make that up, too?”
Smollett said that his attackers’ motivations were clear, based on what he heard them say.
“I will never be the man that this did not happen to,” Smollett said. “I am forever changed.”