Chicago police say the actor Jussie Smollett claimed he was attacked and beaten by two masked men shouting racist and homophobic slurs because he was “dissatisfied with his salary” on the TV show Empire.

Smollett “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career”, Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson said at a press conference on Thursday morning, shortly after Smollett was arrested. “This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve,” Johnson later added.

Smollett, 36, ignited a firestorm on social media by telling police on 29th January that two apparent supporters of Donald Trump had struck him, put a noose around his neck and poured bleach over him.
Johnson said Smollett paid two men $3,500 to stage the attack, and also sent a racist and homophobic threatening letter to himself at the Fox studio lot in Chicago, where Empire is filmed.

The actor, who is gay, handed himself into police on Thursday morning after he was charged with felony disorderly conduct on Wednesday for making a false police report. The charge could bring up to three years in prison. It could also force Smollett to pay for the cost of the investigation into his report.

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