Empire actor Jussie Smollett, who was viciously assaulted in Chicago earlier this month, appeared on Good Morning America on Thursday to speak at length about both the alleged attack and the doubt with which his story has been met. In it, he discusses a number of the story’s most striking details, including that he was doused in bleach and had a rope tied around his neck. He also confirms that the attackers told him this was “MAGA country,” but disputes reports that he said they were also wearing red MAGA hats.
“[Rumors] said that they were wearing MAGA hats—I never said that. I didn’t need to add anything like that,” he said, adding that they called him a number of homophobic and racial slurs. “I don’t need to add a MAGA hat as a cherry on the racist sundae.”
Still, based on the comments he alleges were made by his attackers, he wouldn’t be surprised if the assault was politically motivated. “I come really really hard against 45. I come really really hard against his administration. I don’t hold my tongue,” he said, adding, “I can only go off of their words.”
Smollett also addressed the doubts and speculation that have sprouted up in the wake of his claims, despite the actor sustaining bruised ribs and injuries to his clavicle bone. “I have to acknowledge the lies, and the hate,” he said. “I feel like if I had said it was a Muslim, a Mexican or someone black, I feel like the doubters would support me a lot more, and I feel like that’s an issue in our country right now.”
A point of contention for some was Smollett’s initial refusal to hand his full phone records over to Chicago law enforcement. Those records could prove that Smollett was, as he claims, on the phone with his music manager, Brandon Z. Moore, at the time of the attack. Moore corroborates much of Smollett’s story.
“They wanted me to give my phone to the tech for three to four hours. I’m sorry but—I’m not gonna do that,” Smollett said. “I have private pictures and videos and numbers. My partner’s number, my family’s numbers, my cast mates’ numbers, my friends’ numbers, my private emails, my songs.” He’s since handed over records that Chicago law enforcement call “limited and heavily redacted.”
Smollett became emotional when he was asked how he’d react if the attackers were never found. “I don’t know,” he said. “Let’s just hope that they are. Let’s not go there yet. 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.’ So I’m just going to be left here with this? I’m just going to be left here, and they get to go free and go about their lives and maybe attack someone else? And I’m left here with this aftermath, with this bullshit...I still want to believe with everything that’s happened that there’s something called justice.”
Watch a portion of the interview below. Additional segments of the interview will air tonight on ABC’s Nightline.