‘Empire’ Returns for First Episode Since Jussie Smollett Arrest: How Will It Do in Ratings?

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

“Empire” returns to Fox Wednesday for its Season 5 midseason premiere — the first new episode since Jussie Smollett was arrested and charged with filing a false police report.

As a matter of fact, Wednesday will mark the first new episode of the hip-hop soap since well before Smollett — who plays the openly-gay Jamal Lyon — told Chicago cops he was assaulted on Jan. 29.

The last original “Empire” aired on Dec. 5, which ended with Jeff Kingsley (A.Z. Kelsey) telling Cookie (Taraji P. Henson), Andre (Trai Byers), Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) and Jamal that he is Lucious’ (Terrence Howard) son and a flash-forward showing Andre flatlining in front of his parents, giving fans more fuel for their theories about who is in that casket in all those other flash-forward scenes we’ve seen this season.

With Jamal’s real-life counterpart indicted on 16 felony counts by a Chicago grand jury last week and set to appear in court this Thursday, will the Lyon family’s Nielsen-ratings roar be quieter due to Smollett’s current standing in the court of public opinion? Or could viewers’ curiosity about what happens to Jamal — who has been written out of the season’s final two episodes — cause a bump?

Also Read: Jussie Smollett Appears in Zero of 38 ‘Empire’ Promotional Photos for Fox Return

In Live + 7 day data, this season of “Empire” is down 15 percent among adults 18-49 — a 2.3 vs. a 2.7 — which is the demographic most sought-after by companies that advertise on primetime entertainment programming. The Fox drama is down 7 percent in total viewers, with an average of 7.2 million per episode vs. last season’s 7.7 million.

Last year’s mid-season return came on March 28, when it posted a 2.0 “live” rating in the demo and 6.217 million viewers overall. The show’s night-of viewing has taking a disproportionate hit compared with those week-of declines. That’s not unusual.

All told, Season 4 averaged a 1.9 Live + Same Day rating and 5.850 million total viewers. To-date, Season 5 is down 21 percent in the demo and 13 percent overall from last year’s benchmarks.

What that means is should seasonal trends stay true, expect Wednesday’s episode, titled “My Fault Is Past,” to draw a 1.6 “live” rating and 5.409 million total viewers. We expect a curiosity-based boost, however. While we’re not going to wager a specific guess on this one, one TV ratings expert at a competing network told TheWrap they expect about a 5 to 10 percent gain from what the Season 5B premiere might have otherwise received.

Fox declined to participate in this story.

Also Read: Jussie Smollett Betrayed Osundairo Brothers, Lawyer Says: ‘They Put Their Trust in the Wrong Person’ (Video)

Smollett surrendered himself to Chicago police on Feb. 21, hours after he was formally charged. He was released from police custody later that afternoon, after posting bail and surrendering his passport following a bond hearing.

“Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system,” Smollett’s team said in a statement that day. “The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably, on the eve of a Mayoral election. Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”

Within hours of his release from police custody, Smollett returned to work on the set of “Empire.” However, the following day, executive producers announced that they had decided to remove the actor from the final two episodes of Season 5.

“The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us,” read the statement from “Empire” co-creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, showrunner Brett Mahoney, and executive producers Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer.

“Jussie has been an important member of our ‘Empire’ family for the past five years and we care about him deeply,” the statement continued. “While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out. We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show and to avoid further disruption on set, we have decided to remove the role of ‘Jamal’ from the final two episodes of the season.”

The decision to cut Smollett came after “Empire” studio 20th Century Fox stated last month it was “considering [its] options” following the news of his arrest. A day earlier, the studio had renewed its support for the actor, saying, “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.”

“Empire” Season 5 returns Wednesday at 8/7c on Fox.

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Cops: ‘Empire’ Star Jussie Smollett Staged Attack Because He Was ‘Dissatisfied With His Salary’

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Jussie Smollett staged his Chicago attack because he was “dissatisfied with his salary,” Chicago PD Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Thursday morning during a press conference. Johnson also said Smollett sent the letter threatening himself to Fox, the “Empire” studio.

When Johnson first made those statements, he did not mention their source or his proof. Minutes later, during the media conference’s Q&A portion, the police superintendent responded “yes” to a reporter who asked if that information came from brothers Olabinjo (“Ola”) and Abimbola (“Abel”) Osundairo.

Johnson also said the following of Smollett’s photographed wounds: “So of course it was staged. The brothers had on gloves during the staged attack where they punched him a little bit. But as far as we can tell, the scratches and bruising that you saw on his face were most likely self-inflicted.”

Also Read: See Jussie Smollett’s Mug Shot (Photo)

Chicago PD released Smollett’s mug shot in conjunction with the press conference. Smollett’s bond hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. CT on Thursday.

Smollett surrendered himself to police at 5 a.m. CT Thursday, when he was arrested on charges of filing a false police report, a felony. The charges stem from a report Smollett filed on Jan. 29 that he was attacked by two men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs and referenced “MAGA.” After releasing two former suspects over the weekend, police said they wanted to interview Smollett again — and days later declared him a suspect.

Fox network and studio, the homes to “Empire,” have not immediately responded to our request for comment on the latest developments. Smollett’s lawyers also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Wednesday night, Smollett’s attorneys said the following through publicists: “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. Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”

Also Read: Jussie Smollett Arrested on Felony Charge of Filing False Police Report

Just hours after he was named a suspect in the case of his own reported assault, Smollett was charged Wednesday with filing a false police report and disorderly conduct.

“Felony criminal charges have been approved by @CookCountySAO against Jussie Smollett for Disorderly Conduct / Filing a False Police Report. Detectives will make contact with his legal team to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest,” Chicago Police chief communications officer Anthony Guglielmi said Wednesday.

Earlier on Wednesday, Fox, which produces and airs “Empire,” had renewed its support of Smollett, saying, “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.”

That statement came amid reports, including one here, that Smollett’s role as singer Jamal Lyon would be reduced over the remainder of “Empire’s” fifth season.

Also Read: Jussie Smollett Doubters See Validation in False Report Charge

Since Smollett’s first police report on Jan. 29, the investigation took many turns, with varying degrees of cooperation from Smollett. At one point, police brought in the Osundairo brothers as persons of interest. As it turned out, at least one had worked on “Empire.”

The brothers were released without charges last Friday after the police said “new evidence” had emerged and that the investigation’s “trajectory” had changed course. Earlier this week, CNN reported that Chicago police believed that Smollett might have paid the brothers to stage the attack.

A week before Smollett reported the attack, Fox received a letter threatening Smollett. On Tuesday, ABC News reported that the FBI and U.S. Postal Service were looking into the possibility that Smollett had sent the threatening letter to himself, or played a role in its creation and delivery.

Also on Tuesday, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the investigation to avoid “potential questions of impartiality,” a rep for Foxx said. First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats is acting as prosecutor in her place.

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Jussie Smollett Arrested on Felony Charge of Filing False Police Report

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Jussie Smollet has been arrested by police on felony charges of filing a false police report, Chicago PD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said early Thursday morning, adding that the “Empire” star is “in custody of detectives.”

The charges stem from a report Smollett filed on Jan. 29 that he was attacked by two men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs and referenced “MAGA.” After releasing two former suspects over the weekend, police said they wanted to interview Smollett again — and days later declared him a suspect.

Fox network and studio, the homes to “Empire,” did not immediately respond to our request for comment on this latest development. Smollett’s lawyers also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Wednesday night, Smollett’s attorneys said the following through publicists: “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. Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”

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Hours after he was named a suspect in the case of his own reported assault, Smollett was charged Wednesday with filing a false police report, a felony.

“Felony criminal charges have been approved by @CookCountySAO against Jussie Smollett for Disorderly Conduct / Filing a False Police Report. Detectives will make contact with his legal team to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest,” Chicago Police chief communications officer Anthony Guglielmi said Wednesday.

Also Read: Jussie Smollett Charged With Filing a False Police Report

Earlier on Wednesday, Fox, which produces and airs “Empire,” had renewed its support of Smollett, saying, “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.”

That statement came amid reports, including one here, that Smollett’s role as singer Jamal Lyon would be reduced over the remainder of “Empire’s” fifth season.

Since Smollett’s first police report on Jan. 29, the investigation took many turns, with varying degrees of cooperation from Smollett. At one point, police brought in brothers Olabinjo (“Ola”) and Abimbola (“Abel”) Osundairo as persons of interest. As it turned out, both had worked on “Empire.”

Also Read: Police: Jussie Smollett Now a Suspect ‘for Filing a False Police Report’

The brothers were released without charges last Friday after the police said “new evidence” had emerged and that the investigation’s “trajectory” had changed course. Earlier this week, CNN reported that Chicago police believed that Smollett might have paid the brothers to stage the attack.

A week before Smollett reported the attack, Fox received a letter threatening Smollett. On Tuesday, ABC News reported that the FBI and U.S. Postal Service were looking into the possibility that Smollett had sent the threatening letter to himself, or played a role in its creation and delivery.

Also on Tuesday, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the investigation to avoid “potential questions of impartiality,” a rep for Foxx said. First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats will act as prosecutor in her place.

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Jussie Smollett Charged With Filing a False Police Report; Lawyers Vow ‘Aggressive Defense’

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

“Empire” star Jussie Smollett has been charged with filing a false police report, a felony.

“Felony criminal charges have been approved by @CookCountySAO against Jussie Smollett for Disorderly Conduct / Filing a False Police Report. Detectives will make contact with his legal team to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest,” Chicago Police chief communications officer Anthony Guglielmi said Wednesday.

In a statement, Smollett’s attorneys vowed to ” mount 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,” Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson said. “Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”

20th Century Fox did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TheWrap.

Also Read: Police: Jussie Smollett Now a Suspect ‘for Filing a False Police Report’

On Wednesday, Smollett was officially named a suspect in his own assault case.

Smollett reported Jan. 29 that he was attacked by two men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs and referenced “MAGA.” After releasing two former suspects over the weekend, police said they wanted to interview Smollett again — and then declared him the suspect.

Earlier on Wednesday, Fox had renewed its support of Smollett, saying, “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.”

That statement came amid reports, including one here, that Smollett’s role of Jamal Lyon would be reduced over the remainder of “Empire’s” fifth season.

Also Read: Jussie Smollett’s ‘Empire’ Scenes Cut Down in Remaining Season 5 Episodes

Since Smollett’s first police report on Jan. 29, the investigation took many turns, with varying degrees of cooperation from Smollett. At one point, police brought in brothers Olabinjo (“Ola”) and Abimbola (“Abel”) Osundairo as persons of interest. As it turned out, both had worked on “Empire.”

The brothers were released without charges last Friday after the police said “new evidence” had emerged and that the investigation’s “trajectory” had changed course. Earlier this week, CNN reported that Chicago police believed that Smollett might have paid the brothers to stage the attack.

A week before Smollett reported the attack, Fox received a letter threatening Smollett. On Tuesday, ABC News reported that the FBI and U.S. Postal Service were looking into the possibility that Smollett had sent the threatening letter to himself, or played a role in its creation and delivery.

Also on Tuesday, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the investigation to avoid “potential questions of impartiality,” a rep for Foxx said. First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats has been set to act as prosecutor in her place.

More to come…

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Police: Jussie Smollett Now a Suspect ‘for Filing a False Police Report’

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

“Empire” star Jussie Smollett is now officially a suspect “for filing a false police report,” Chicago PD says. That’s a Class 4 felony.

“Case Update: Jussie Smollett is now officially classified as a suspect in a criminal investigation by #ChicagoPolice for filing a false police report (Class 4 felony),” Chicago PD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said on Wednesday. “Detectives are currently presenting evidence before a Cook County Grand Jury.”

Case Update: Jussie Smollett is now officially classified as a suspect in a criminal investigation by #ChicagoPolice for filing a false police report (Class 4 felony). Detectives are currently presenting evidence before a Cook County Grand Jury. pic.twitter.com/FhDcbBKsuU

— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) February 20, 2019

We’ve reached out to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office for more details on the potential charge(s), but we have not immediately heard back. We also reached out to Smollett’s attorneys for potential comment on the matter, but we have not immediately heard back.

Also Read: Jussie Smollett’s ‘Empire’ Scenes Cut Down in Remaining Season 5 Episodes

Earlier Wednesday, Fox had renewed its support of Smollett, saying, “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.”

That statement came amid reports, including one here, that Smollett’s role of Jamal Lyon would be reduced over the remainder of “Empire’s” fifth season.

TheWrap reached out to Fox for a new statement now that Smollett has been named a suspect, but we have not yet heard back.

Also Read: Fox Still Says Jussie Smollett Will Not Be Written Out of ‘Empire’

On Jan. 29, Smollett reported to the Chicago PD that he was assaulted by two men who shouted homophobic and racist slurs at him and told him this is “MAGA country.” Since then, the cops’ investigation took many twists and turns, with varying degrees of cooperation from Smollett. At one point, police had brought in brothers Olabinjo (“Ola”) and Abimbola (“Abel”) Osundairo as persons of interest. As it turned out, both had worked on “Empire.”

The brothers were released without charges last Friday after the police said “new evidence” emerged and the investigation’s “trajectory” changed course. Earlier this week, CNN reported that Chicago PD at that point began to believe that Smollett might have paid the brothers to stage the attack.

The reported attack on Smollett followed an incident one week prior, when a letter threatening Smollett was received at Fox’s studio, the home to “Empire.” On Tuesday, ABC News reported that the FBI and U.S. Postal Service are looking into the possibility that Smollett sent the threatening letter to himself, or that he at least played a role in its creation and delivery.

Also on Tuesday, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the investigation to avoid “potential questions of impartiality,” a spokesperson for Foxx said. First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats has been set to act as State’s Attorney in her place in the case.

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Here’s Ola Osundairo, Man Tied to Jussie Smollett Case, on ‘Empire’ (Photos)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Ola Osundairo, one of the men questioned and released in the Jussie Smollett investigation last week, appeared as an extra on Smollett’s TV series, “Empire,” on the first episode of Season 2. If you’re curious about his role, read on.

TMZ was first to name the Olabinjo (“Ola”) and Abimbola (“Abel”) Osundairo, who police identified as persons of interest and then possible suspects before releasing them and saying the case had taken a turn. They now hope to interview Smollett.

Police have not identified the brothers, but they said in a statement Monday: “”We are not racist. We are not homophobic, and we are not anti-Trump. We were born and raised in Chicago and are American citizens.”

The statement address the many theories of the case in news reports and social media. Smollett said on Jan. 29 that he was attacked by two men who shouted racist and homophobic slurs and referenced “MAGA.”

TheWrap was able to confirm Ola’s role on “Empire” through both his brother, Abel, and through their lawyer Gloria Schmidt. Fox broadcast network has not responded to our requests regarding any additional details of Ola’s Episode 201 role. The studio did not have a comment when reached.

Also Read: Brothers Released in Jussie Smollett Investigation Deny Racism, Homophobia (Report)

In his first scene, Ola plays one of Frank Gathers’ (Chris Rock) enforcers who just roughed up a fellow inmate.

In his second scene, Ola is just a background actor while Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) visits Lucious (Terrence Howard) in prison. He has no lines in either scene, and does not share any screen time with Smollett in the episode.

Also Read: Jussie Smollett Has ‘No Plans’ to Meet With Chicago Police Today

Here is a look at Ola posing with series co-creator Lee Daniels, who posted the photo to his Instagram to commemorate the start of filming Season 2.

TMZ reported that Abel worked on the “Empire” set as recently as a month ago.

Also Read: ‘Empire’ Showrunner Still Stands by Jussie Smollett Despite New Evidence: ‘Keep Your Head Up’

Chicago PD are still investigating the reported attack on Smollett. The brothers were released from custody without charges after the cops say “new evidence” emerged and the investigation’s “trajectory” changed course.

CNN reported that Chicago PD now believe Smollett paid the brothers to stage the attack.

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Jussie Smollett Viewed As “Active Participant” By Cops In Alleged Assault

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Jussie Smollett Denies Hiring Defense Attorney

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

A representative for “Empire” star Jussie Smollett denies a report that the actor has hired Michael Cohen’s criminal defense attorney, Michael D. Monico.

Monico said during an interview on WGN’s The Roe Conn Show on Thursday and then confirmed in a report in Variety Friday that Smollett was his client.

“I’d like to get your thoughts [on] Jussie Smollett here, but we can’t get your thoughts on Jussie Smollett because [of] this big developing story today, and it turns out you’re the attorney for Jussie Smollett, too,” Conn said to Monico.

“Yes, at the moment, I am,” Monico replied.

Also Read: Jussie Smollett Case: Arrested Men Released Without Charges ‘Due to New Evidence’

Smollett’s rep denied the report when contacted by TheWrap on Saturday, and Monico declined to comment on the matter.

Smollett told detectives he was attacked near his Chicago home by two men on Jan. 29 yelling about “MAGA,” as well as spewing racist and homophobic slurs. According to a police statement, the actor reported that he was battered “about the face,” that “an unknown chemical substance” was poured on him, and that the attackers wrapped a rope around his neck.

Two males were arrested and questioned as “potential suspects” then released without charges “due to new evidence” on Friday.

Also Read: Jussie Smollett Tells Robin Roberts He’s ‘Pissed Off’: ‘How Do You Not Believe That?’ (Video)

Police have said that Smollett continues to be considered a victim in relation to the investigation, contesting two recent news reports saying investigators have raised the possibility that Smollett may have orchestrated the attack himself.

“Media reports about the Empire incident being a hoax are unconfirmed by case detectives,” Chicago police tweeted Thursday. “Supt Eddie Johnson has contacted @ABC7Chicago to state on the record that we have no evidence to support their reporting and their supposed CPD sources are uninformed and inaccurate.”

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Jussie Smollett Tells ‘GMA’ He Is Certain the Men in Surveillance Footage Attacked Him (Video)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

In an interview that will air Thursday morning, Jussie Smollett told “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts that he is certain the two men featured in surveillance footage obtained by Chicago police are the same men he says attacked him.

“I don’t have any doubt in my mind that that’s them,” Smollett said in an excerpt from the interview made available Wednesday. “Never did.”

As TheWrap first reported, Roberts landed the first interview with the “Empire” star since reported being attacked in Chicago while walking to his apartment. According to Smollett, two men attacked him while yelling racial and homophobic slurs and referencing “MAGA.” A police statement said unspecified chemicals were poured on the “Empire” star’s face, and a rope placed around his neck.

Also Read: Jussie Smollett Tells Robin Roberts He’s ‘Pissed Off’: ‘How Do You Not Believe That?’ (Video)

A day after the incident, police released images of two “potential persons of interest” taken from a surveillance video.

The photos showed two silhouettes walking in the area of where Smollett was sometime between 1:30 a.m. and 1:45 a.m., but did not show any attack. Chicago police said they would like question the two people.

Asked why he was convinced those were his attackers, Smollett told Roberts, “I was there,” adding, “For me, when that was released, I was like, O.K., we’re getting somewhere.”

Also Read: NAACP President on Media Coverage of Jussie Smollett Attack Story: ‘Verging on Demonizing a Victim’

In the clip, Smollett also said he was “pissed off” at what he called “attacks” from those who may have doubted his account.

“What is it that has you so angry? Is it the…attackers?” Roberts asked.

“Attackers, but it’s also the attacks,” Smollett responded. “It’s like, you know, at first, it was a thing of, like, ‘Listen, if I tell the truth then that’s it, ’cause it’s the truth.’ Then it became a thing of like, ‘Oh, how can you doubt that? Like, how do you- how do you not believe that? It’s the truth.’”

Police had asked for Smollett’s phone records because he said he was on a call with his manager, Brandon Z. Moore, during the attack. After Smollett turned the records over, Chicago police said they were too heavily redacted to be useful to their investigation. A Chicago police spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi, said in a statement, “We are very appreciative of the victim’s cooperation however the records provided do not meet the burden for a criminal investigation.”

On Tuesday, Smollett’s publicists pushed back, saying that the actor was only trying to protect “the privacy of personal contacts.”

Watch the clip from the interview below, and see the full interview Thursday at 7 a.m. on “GMA.”

.@JussieSmollett tells @RobinRoberts that there is no doubt in his mind that the men pictured in surveillance footage attacked him. “I don’t have any doubt in my mind that that’s them.” See more of the EXCLUSIVE interview TOMORROW on @GMA. https://t.co/3HbyU2SFxe pic.twitter.com/hiNGiHDyl0

— Good Morning America (@GMA) February 13, 2019

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Jussie Smollett Tells Robin Roberts He’s ‘Pissed Off’: ‘How Do You Not Believe That?’ (Video)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

In his first interview since reporting that he was attacked by two men in Chicago, Jussie Smollett said he was “pissed off” at what he called “attacks” from those who may have doubted his account.

As TheWrap first reported, “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts snagged the first interview with the “Empire” star since he told police that he was attacked in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood while walking to his apartment. According to Smollett, two men attacked him while yelling racial and homophobic slurs and referencing “MAGA.” A police statement said chemicals were poured on the “Empire” star’s face, and a rope placed around his neck.

But Smollett’s account has been questioned after the Chicago Police Department said the actor was slow to turn over material pertinent to the investigation.

Also Read: Jussie Smollett to Appear on ‘GMA’ for First Interview Since Reporting Attack (Exclusive)

“What is it that has you so angry? Is it the…attackers?” Roberts asked.

“Attackers, but it’s also the attacks,” Smollett responded. “It’s like, you know, at first, it was a thing of, like, ‘Listen, if I tell the truth then that’s it, ’cause it’s the truth.’ Then it became a thing of like, ‘Oh, how can you doubt that? Like, how do you– how do you not believe that? It’s the truth.’”

Police had asked for Smollett’s phone records because he said he was on a call with his manager, Brandon Z. Moore, during the attack.

On January 31, two days after the incident, CPD said that detectives “were not able to independently verify the statements as cell phone records were not provided to investigators when asked. Therefore we are not able to confirm this.”

Also Read: Jussie Smollett Says He Gave Police Redacted Phone Records to ‘Protect the Privacy of Personal Contacts’

Smollett did eventually turn over his phone records. But Chicago police said they were too heavily redacted to be useful to their investigation. A Chicago police spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi, said in a statement, “We are very appreciative of the victim’s cooperation however the records provided do not meet the burden for a criminal investigation.”

On Tuesday, Smollett’s publicists pushed back, saying that the actor was only trying to protect “the privacy of personal contacts.”

“Any redacted information was intended to protect the privacy of personal contacts or high-profile individuals not relevant to the attack,” his reps said in a statement.

Also Read: Jussie Smollett Turns Over ‘Limited and Redacted’ Phone Records, Police Say

Smollett’s full interview with “GMA” airs Thursday at 7 a.m. EST.

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Chicago PD: Jussie Smollett and Manager Haven’t Turned Over Phone Records From Attack

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Chicago police said Thursday that Jussie Smollett and his manager have not provided phone records that would help them investigate Smollett’s case.

Asked if the department was correct, a person close to Smollett told TheWrap: “There is a lot of misinformation out there.”

Smollett and his manager, Brandon Z. Moore, have told police that they were talking with each other on the phone when Smollett was attacked in Chicago early Tuesday. Smollett told police two men attacked him while yelling racial and homophobic slurs and referencing “MAGA,” according to officers. A police statement said chemicals were poured on the “Empire” star’s face, and a rope placed around his neck.

Also Read: Jussie Smollett’s Family Condemns Attack: ‘These Are Inhumane Acts of Domestic Terrorism’

The Chicago Police Department said in a statement Thursday:

“Both the victim and the manager made independent statements to detectives that they were on the phone with one another during the alleged attack. CPD has no reason to doubt these claims. Detectives however were not able to independently verify the statements as cell phone records were not provided to investigators when asked. Therefore we are not able to confirm this.”

Moore did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Also on Thursday, Smollett’s family released a statement condemning the attack as “domestic terrorism.”

“In the early hours of Tuesday morning, our beloved son and brother, Jussie, was the victim of a violent and unprovoked attack,” the family said in a statement. “We want to be clear, this was a racial and homophobic hate crime. Jussie has told the police everything from the very beginning. His story has never changed, and we are hopeful they will find these men and bring them to justice.”

Also Read: Donald Trump Calls Jussie Smollett Attack ‘Horrible’ (Video)

The Smollett family condemned all hate crimes in their statement, calling for “radical love” and accountability for perpetrators.

“MAGA” refers to “Make America Great Again,” one of President Trump’s slogans. Asked about the Smollett attack on Thursday, Trump replied: “That I can tell you is horrible. It doesn’t get worse.”

On Wednesday, Chicago police released photos from a surveillance video showing “potential persons of interest” in the case.The photos, released Wednesday afternoon, show two silhouetted figures. Chicago police say they would like to question them because they were near the scene of the attack.

The case has brought an outpouring of love for Smollett and widespread condemnation of the attack. Some online have objected to the word “possible,” saying the hateful element of such a crime is obvious. But Chicago police officer Michelle Tannehill said police routinely use the word “possible” in cases when the an investigation is not yet complete.

Jon Levine contributed to this story.

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Donald Trump Calls Jussie Smollett Attack ‘Horrible’ (Video)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

President Donald Trump condemned the attack of “Empire” star Jussie Smollett, calling it “horrible” on Thursday.

“That I can tell you is horrible. It doesn’t get worse,” the president told White House reporter April Ryan when asked about the incident.

Smollett was attacked at around 2 a.m. Tuesday in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood when he said that two people began yelling racial and homophobic slurs at him. Smollett told police that the attackers yelled “MAGA.”

Also Read: Jussie Smollett Attack: Chicago PD Seeking ‘Potential Persons of Interest’

In a statement on Tuesday, Chicago Police Department said a “cast member from the Fox series ‘Empire’ was injured in what police called a ‘possible racially-charged assault and battery.’”

On Wednesday evening, detectives released photos from a surveillance video showing “potential persons of interest” in the attack.

The photos show two silhouettes walking in the area of where Smollett was sometime between 1:30 a.m. and 1:45 a.m., but does not show the actual attack. Chicago police said they would like to question the two people.

Smollett has yet to comment publicly on the attack.

Also Read: ‘Empire’ Star Jussie Smollett Recalled Attackers Yelling About ‘MAGA,’ Police Say

Smollett is best known for his role as Jamal Lyon, the gay son of Lucious (Terrence Howard) and Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) in Fox’s hit show “Empire.”

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Stephen Colbert Tells Chicagoans How to Keep ‘Polish Sausage From Snapping Off’ in Record Cold (Video)

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As Chicago deals with near-record cold weather as part of a Polar Vortex, with parts of the Midwest reaching minus 25 degrees, Stephen Colbert gave some sage advice for keeping warm on”The Late Show” Wednesday night. And he spoke the language too.

“Hey ‘dere. Chicagoans know that our cold is the worst, okay,” Colbert said, doing his best impression of former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka. “Here’s how to keep your Polish saa-sage from snapping off.”

Colbert sported a fake mustache straight out of the ’80s and put on a thick accent about how to brave the winter, not that Chicagoans aren’t used to it at this point.

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“If you’re really cold, slice open and crawl inside a visiting Packers fan,” he joked. “They got that insulated layer of cheese. Keep you safe for days, eat your way out.”

Colbert said that he will always love Chicago and the city’s toughness after getting his start there as a comedian and improv comic at Second City. He also said he was there on the city’s official coldest day in 1985, when the temperature hit minus 27.

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“Get yourself two Portillo’s Italian beefs (sandwiches) with hot peppers, okay? Up against the cheeks,” he said. “Do not eat your emergency warmth! You’re going to need them later to make love to.”

Watch the clip from “The Late Show” above.

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Sundance 2019: Every Movie Sold So Far, From ‘Late Night’ to ‘Ask Dr. Ruth’ (Updating)

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This year’s Sundance Film Festival is already shaping up to be a stronger acquisition market than last year’s, with several films already having been sold, including Mindy Kaling’s “Late Night” for a whopping $13 million.

The buzzy Richard Wright adaptation “Native Son” was sold to HBO films before it even premiered on Thursday night. Several movies were sold ahead of the festival as well, including Tilda Swinton’s “The Souvenir” and Ryan White’s documentary “Ask Dr. Ruth.”

Several sales agents and buyers predicted a healthy and stable marketplace this year after last year’s somewhat slower festival.

Also Read: Amazon Nabs Mindy Kaling, Emma Thompson Comedy ‘Late Night’ for $13 Million

Several buzzy films are still up for sale, including Awkwafina’s “The Farewell,” Shia LaBeouf’s “Honey Boy” and Julianne Moore’s “After the Wedding.”

Bidding wars have been scarce so far this year. “Buyers are savvy and generally are paying what they think is necessary to make a deal happen while also fitting their individual business model,” one insider said. “I don’t expect there will be more than one or two legitimate bidding wars but I do expect it will be an active market given the number of players in the space looking for content.”

Here are the Sundance entries that have signed new distribution deals so far in Park City:

“Late Night”

The first big festival acquisition was Mindy Kaling’s “Late Night,” which sold to Amazon Studios for $13 million just shortly after its premiere on Friday night. The film received loud claps and laughs, and many audience members had called it the first commercial hit of this year’s festival.

Nisha Ganatra directed the film that also stars Emma Thompson and John Lithgow. Kaling wrote, produced and starred in the film that follows a legendary late night talk show host (Thompson).

“Native Son”

Ahead of the Thursday night premiere of “Native Son,” HBO Films bought the rights to Rashid Johnson’s modern re-imagining of Richard Wright’s seminal novel, about a young African-American man named Bigger Thomas (Ashton Sanders) who takes a job working for a highly influential Chicago family, a decision that will change the course of his life forever.

Margaret Qualley, Nick Robinson, KiKi Layne, Elizabeth Marvel, David Alan Grier, Sanaa Lathan and Bill Camp also star.

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“Ask Dr. Ruth”

Hulu picked up the rights to the “Ask Dr. Ruth” documentary well ahead of the festival.

Directed by Ryan White (“The Keepers,” “The Case Against 8”), “Ask Dr. Ruth” chronicles the life of Dr. Ruth Westheimer, a Holocaust survivor who became America’s most famous sex therapist. With her diminutive frame, thick German accent and uninhibited approach to sex therapy and education, Dr. Ruth transformed the conversation around sexuality. As she approaches her 90th birthday and shows no signs of slowing down, the documentary follows Dr. Ruth as she revisits her painful past and unlikely path to a career at the forefront of the sexual revolution.

“The Tomorrow Man”

Bleecker Street acquired the North American rights to Noble Jones’ debut feature “The Tomorrow Man” a week before the festival.

John Lithgow and Blythe Danner star in the romantic film, which is slated for release on May 19 after its Sundance premiere on Jan. 30.

The film follows Ed (Lithgow), who spends his life preparing for a disaster that might never come, while Ronnie (Danner) shops for things she might not need. The two try to find love while trying not to get lost.

“The Nightingale”

In January, IFC Films acquired the U.S. rights to “The Nightingale,” the latest film from Jennifer Kent, the Australian director of “The Babadook.”

IFC Films is re-teaming with Kent after distributing “The Babadook” in 2014. That horror film made $10.3 million worldwide. IFC is planning a summer release for “The Nightingale,” which first premiered at the 2018 Venice International Film Festival and won the Special Jury Prize, as well as the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best New Young Performer for Baykali Ganambarr.

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“The Souvenir”

In December, Tilda Swinton’s “The Souvenir” was picked up by A24. Martin Scorsese executive produces the film that also stars Honor Swinton-Byrne and Tom Burke. A24 will release the film theatrically in 2019 and acquired it from Protagonist Pictures and 30WEST.

“The Souvenir” follows a quiet film student (Swinton Byrne) who begins to find her voice as an artist while navigating a turbulent courtship with a charismatic but untrustworthy man (Burke). She defies her protective mother (Swinton) and concerned friends as she slips deeper and deeper into an intense, emotionally fraught relationship that comes dangerously close to destroying her dreams.

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#MeToo Starts 2019 With Milestones, From ‘Surviving R Kelly’ to Kevin Spacey’s Charges

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After suffering a few setbacks in 2018, the #MeToo movement is starting 2019 with a run of milestones, from the new attention paid to R Kelly to the criminal charges against Kevin Spacey.

This year has already seen Kevin Spacey going to court to face a criminal charge; CBS choosing veteran producer Susan Zirinsky to be first the woman to lead the its news division; prosecutors in Chicago and Atlanta investigating accusations raised in Lifetime’s “Surviving R Kelly” documentary, and new sexual harassment protection laws, inspired by #MeToo, taking effect in 11 states.

The victories provide new inspiration to activists who suffered through Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court in the fall, despite accusations of sexual misconduct. (He denied them.) Activists were also disappointed and angry after The New York Times reported that Asia Argento, one of #MeToo’s most prominent voices, paid $380,000 to a young man who accused her of sexually assaulting him when he was 17. (She also denied any wrongdoing.)

Also Read: Alyssa Milano Calls for Accountability, Rehabilitation ‘Protocol’ Amid John Lasseter Backlash

“There have been moments that have not been helpful to the movement, and I have no doubt there will be more,” Alyssa Milano, who helped popularize #MeToo, told TheWrap. “There is not going to be a perfect movement. S— is going to get broke and I think there will some small moments that we see as setback.”

“Surviving R Kelly” detailed accusations of abuse and sexual misconduct against the singer starting in the ’90s. It also looked into the circumstances surrounding his acquittal on 2002 child pornography charges. Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but denied the accusations in an interview with The Associated Press.

Some radio stations have stopped playing R Kelly’s music, and an Illinois concert was canceled.

“Lifetime took a risk that was brilliant and brave,” said #MeToo founder Tarana Burke, who was featured in the docuseries. “It was exactly what we need to bring this to the attention of the masses.”

The year began with a huge, systemic victory for the #MeToo movement, but also a sign that activists still  have differences to iron out.

Besides the new anti-harassment laws that took effect Jan. 1, California has passed a new law requiring women to be on corporate boards by the end of this year.

“What we’re seeing is a sisterhood forming all around the world,” actress Rosanna Arquette, who was one of the first to accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct, told TheWrap. “We have #MeToo in India now.”

But some #MeToo activists were puzzled by a video released by TimesUp on New Year’s Day. Hollywood activists started TimesUp in part to respond to the issues raised by the #MeToo movement, which caught fire in 2017 after numerous women accused Weinstein of offenses ranging from harassment to rape. (He has denied any non-consensual sex.)

The TimesUp video raised eyebrows because it failed to include a single Weinstein accuser. A TimesUp statement said in a statement: “The cultural reckoning we’re experiencing today would not be possible without the brave survivors who came forward and told their stories through the #MeToo movement.”

Also Read: Lady Gaga Apologizes for Past R Kelly Collaboration, Pulls Song From iTunes

Some news has contained positive and negative elements for #MeToo. Last week, former Pixar boss John Lasseter, who was ousted over accusations of inappropriate touching and kissing, scored a high-profile job with Skydance Animation. (Lasseter admitted to “missteps” that made employees feeling “disrespected and uncomfortable”).

TimesUp said in a statement that the hiring “endorses and perpetuates a broken system that allows powerful men to act without consequence.”

Women in Animation president Marge Dean said on the group’s Facebook page: “The single biggest effect of the events last year is that we saw men experiencing consequences for their bad behavior. The Lasseter decision seems to have weakened that giant step forward, and I felt panic that our progress was being undermined.”

But Skydance’s handling of the situation indicated it was at least aware of the problems raised by Lassiter’s hiring. The company held town halls to address it, and Skydance CEO David Ellison released a statement that promised, in part, that Lassiter had “given his assurance that he will comport himself in a wholly professional manner.”

Spacey also attempted something of a comeback near the start of the New Year: On Christmas Eve, on the same day Massachusetts officials announced he would face a felony assault charge — he is accused of groping an 18-year-old’s genitals in a restaurant — Spacey released a video of himself as his “House of Cards” character, Frank Underwood.

He chided viewers not to believe he was guilty of anything, adding: “You want me back.”

But the video was widely condemned, and Spacey’s next public appearance was at a Massachusetts courthouse on Jan. 7. Spacey entered a plea of not guilty.

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How to Live Stream the NFL Thanksgiving Day Games for Free

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This Thanksgiving Day, footballs fans will be able enjoy three NFL games: The Chicago Bears vs. the Detroit Lions at 9:30 a.m. PT, 12:30 p.m. ET on CBS; the Washington Redskins v.s. the Dallas Cowboys at 1:30 p.m. PT, 4:30 p.m. ET on Fox; and the Atlan…

How to Watch the Vikings-Bears Game on ‘Sunday Night Football’ for Free

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With the NFL regular season a little over halfway complete, NFL fans continue to flock to their TV sets, mobile phones, connected TVs, desktops and laptops waiting to watch their favorite teams. This Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings will play the Chicago …