ABC Gave Smollett a Platform as His Claims Seemed to Fall Apart; Now Report Claims He Staged the Attack

In roughly 24 hours, ABC News had spent over 24 minutes (24 minutes 19 seconds) between their flagship morning and evening broadcasts gushing over Empire star Jussie Smollett and the alleged hate crime he claimed to be a victim of. But recent reporting from ABC7, their local affiliate in Chicago, suggested that Smollett may have collaborated with others to stage the attack because he allegedly was being written off the show.

Multiple sources have told ABC7 Eyewitness News that police are investigating whether Smollett and the two men staged the attack allegedly because Smollett was being written off of ‘Empire,’” reported ABC7. Adding, “Chicago police told ABC News, Police are investigating whether the two individuals committed the attack - or whether the attack happened at all.’

That 24 minutes and 19 seconds was tallied from ABC’s World News Tonight’s coverage on February 13-14 and February 14's Good Morning America when they were either hyping the interview between Smollett and ABC’s Robin Roberts or showing it. Since the alleged attack first broke on January 29, those two programs had spent a total of 52 minutes and 38 seconds covering Smollett’s claims. An alluring claim was the accusation that the attackers yelled: “this is MAGA country.”

During that time, ABC was sympathetic to Smollett despite swirling questions about the validity of his claims. As NewsBusters news analyst Kristine Marsh discovered, Roberts “did not refer to the attack as ‘alleged’ even once.” And the coverage on World News Tonight wasn’t much better.

During Wednesday’s World News Tonight (February 13), reporter Alex Perez touted how: “Tonight, actor Jussie Smollett is speaking out in an exclusive interview with Robin Roberts. For the first time, revealing what he saw in that grainy surveillance image of two people police say were spotted nearby around the time of the attack.”

 

 

“The star of the show Empire told Chicago police he was walking back to his downtown apartment when the men assaulted him, battering him in the face, yelling racial and homophobic slurs and putting a noose around his neck. Investigators calling it a possible hate crime,” Perez added.

Perez then played a soundbite of Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson stating: “He is a victim, and we treat him like a victim. He's been very cooperative.” But that soundbite was from February 1. That date was noteworthy, because, on February 13’s NBC Nightly News, they reported that Chicago Police were saying something totally different.

According to NBC correspondent Ron Mott, since the CPD could not find “evidence of an assault and no independent corroborating information,” they “continue to consider Smollett a ‘possible crime victim’, but say he will be held accountable if they suspect the actor filed a false report.”

Sometime after the ABC interview on Thursday (February 14), news broke that the two people featured in a photo circulated by police were actually people Smollett knew and had worked with on Empire. ABC was still quite sympathetic, with Perez reporting:

But police say they have no evidence the two people were involved in the attack on Smollett. Smollett is being interviewed again by investigators. The Empire star now opening up about what happened that night he was on his phone, talking to his manager. (…) [W]e learned just a short time ago, that authorities actually carried out an overnight raid on the home of those two people that they have been interviewing, collecting shoes and electronic devices as evidence. So far, no one has been charged.

Meanwhile, on Thursday’s NBC Nightly News, reporter Miguel Almaguer was more willing to cast doubt on Smollett. “As Smollett begins to make public appearances, questions are swirling over the actor's account of the alleged racist and homophobic attack, still not verified by police. The Chicago Tribune is reporting both men questioned today are black,” he recalled.

Adding, “Detectives say they've reviewed hundreds of hours of surveillance video and have not found any evidence of the attack. Investigators call Smollett an ‘alleged victim’ who they still have questions for.

In yet another twist late Thursday, ABC7 reporter Rob Elgas reported on Twitter that Superintendent Johnson contacted the outlet to say “Smollett is considered a victim,” and a spokesperson for Smollett said the actor had answered: “Routine follow up questions.

From the beginning, Smollett’s claims were dubious which were evident by the questions many had, NBC included. And as time went on, the claims appeared to get weaker and weaker.

The transcripts are below click "expand" to read:

ABC’s World News Tonight
February 13, 2019
6:33:43 p.m. Eastern [3 minutes 20 seconds]

DAVID MUIR: Next tonight, to an ABC exclusive. Empire star Jussie Smollett in his first interview with our Robin Roberts. Answering questions about that alleged hate crime, the attack he says he endured in Chicago. And tonight, Smollett talks for the first time about that surveillance image put out by Chicago police, with two possible persons of interest. ABC's Alex Perez from Chicago.

[Cuts to video

ALEX PEREZ: Tonight, actor Jussie Smollett is speaking out in an exclusive interview with Robin Roberts. For the first time, revealing what he saw in that grainy surveillance image of two people police say were spotted nearby around the time of the attack.

(…)

PEREZ: The star of the show Empire told Chicago police he was walking back to his downtown apartment when the men assaulted him, battering him in the face, yelling racial and homophobic slurs and putting a noose around his neck. Investigators calling it a possible hate crime.

EDDIE T. JOHNSON (Chicago Police Chief on February 1): He is a victim, and we treat him like a victim. He's been very cooperative.

PEREZ: The actor and his manager told police they were on the phone during the attack. And while Smollett wouldn't turn over his phone to police, this week, he gave investigators a partial copy of his phone records. But Chicago police say they are "limited and heavily redacted" adding they need additional information "to corroborate the investigative timeline." Smollett says he did it to protect “the privacy of personal contacts." As for those who doubt he is telling the truth.

JUSSIE SMOLLETT: I'm pissed off.

(…)

[Cuts back to live]

MUIR: And Jussie Smollett with our Robin Roberts. And Alex joins us now from Chicago. I know, Alex, police are still working with Smollett on the investigation?

PEREZ: David, they are. Investigators want to talk to him again about the phone records. His representatives say he is working with police to verify them. Now, he has a lot more to say in that interview with Robin. He answers in detail a lot of those questions people have about what happened that night. David?

 

ABC’s World News Tonight
February 14, 2019
6:39:02 p.m. Eastern 

DAVID MUIR: New developments as we're on the air this evening in the investigation into that alleged hate crime attack on actor Jussie Smollett. Chicago police tonight say they have found the men in this surveillance image right here from the night in question. And tonight, we have learned they have now raided the home where those two men live. And in a stunning turn, at least one of those two people there has appeared on that program, Empire. ABC's Alex Perez is in Chicago.

[Cuts to video]

ALEX PEREZ: Tonight, Chicago police say they've identified the persons of interest in that grainy surveillance image and are now questioning them. One of those people is an actor on Smollett’s own show, Empire. It comes after Jussie Smollett had told our robin Roberts he's convinced the people seen here are the ones who attacked him.

(…)

PEREZ: But police say they have no evidence the two people were involved in the attack on Smollett. Smollett is being interviewed again by investigators. The Empire star now opening up about what happened that night he was on his phone, talking to his manager.

(…)

PEREZ: Smollett says he first thought it was all captured on surveillance.

(…)

PEREZ: Investigators asking to see his phone.

(…)

PEREZ: And David, we learned just a short time ago, that authorities actually carried out an overnight raid on the home of those two people that they have been interviewing, collecting shoes and electronic devices as evidence. So far, no one has been charged.

MUIR: Alex Perez on this again tonight. Alex, thank you.

NBC Nightly News
February 13, 2019
7:07:52 p.m. Eastern

(…)

RON MOTT: Appearing with Robin Roberts for Thursday's Good Morning America, Empire star Jussie Smollett striking back at those questioning his account of being attacked near his Chicago apartment last month.

(…)

MOTT: Smollett told police two men assaulted him, put a rope around his neck, poured liquid on him, and yelled racial and homophobic slurs. Police say they have pored through hundreds of hours of surveillance footage but found no evidence of an assault and no independent corroborating information supporting the actor's allegations.

This week Chicago police say Smollett turned over a heavily redacted photo of his cell phone call log. He told authorities he was on the phone with his manager when he was approached. Police want a more complete digital version of his call logs, they say, to help narrow the timeline. City officials continue to consider Smollett a “possible crime victim”, but say he will be held accountable if they suspect the actor filed a false report. Ron Mott, NBC news, Chicago.

 

NBC Nightly News
February 14, 2019
7:10:13 p.m. Eastern

LESTER HOLT: Now to the stunning twist in that alleged attack on actor Jussie Smollett. Late today, police say that the two persons of interest they're questioning are affiliated with Smollett’s show Empire. NBC's Miguel Almaguer has the latest.

[Cuts to video]

MIGUEL ALMAGUER: Tonight, Chicago police say the two men in this photo, who actor Jussie Smollett says attacked him, are affiliated with his show Empire. The dramatic new twist comes after Smollett said this on ABC this morning.

JUSSIE SMOLLETT: For me, when that was released I was like, okay, we're getting somewhere. I don't have any doubt in my mind that that's them, never did.

ALMAGUER: Both men, who had earlier been called people of interest, have been questioned by detectives but are not considered suspects. As Smollett begins to make public appearances, questions are swirling over the actor's account of the alleged racist and homophobic attack, still not verified by police. The Chicago Tribune is reporting both men questioned today are black.

(…)

ALMAGUER: Detectives say they've reviewed hundreds of hours of surveillance video and have not found any evidence of the attack. Investigators call Smollett an “alleged victim” who they still have questions for. Smollett told police he was on the phone with his manager during the attack. Investigators say he would only hand over a photo of a heavily redacted call log.

(…)

ALMAGUER: Tonight, Smollett stands by his story, while police are closer to closing their case. Miguel Almaguer, NBC News.

NBDaily Bias by Omission Conspiracy Theories Labeling Race Issues Racism Sexuality Homosexuality Broadcast Television ABC Good Morning America World News Tonight NBC NBC Nightly News Fake News Video Alex Perez Ron Mott Miguel Almaguer Jussie Smollett

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