Less than an hour before news broke that Empire star Jussie Smollett was beaten in the Chicago subway in what is termed a racially motivated attack, the claims of a hoax already started creeping up from right-wing corners of the internet.
Led by The_Donald, the Trump-supporting spot on Reddit, many began to make baseless claims that the actor was lying about the attack and its motives. Initial reports from TMZ claimed that the attack was carried out by apparent Trump supporters who warned the actor that he was in “MAGA country.” When the Chicago Police Department clarified that they had no report of the attackers making reference to Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, right-wing corners of the internet circulated claims that the entire attack was fabricated.
“Because there are so many white supremacists at 2AM, on a subway, in Chicago, carrying a noose and bleach and they recognize him from a tv show that’s 90% black actors and best of all ZERO PROOF!…” one of the top comments read. “WTF kind of racist fantasy land does this idiot live in??? 100% hate crime hoax.”
“He got mugged and is trying to turn himself into a race martyr,” another claimed.
Others picked up the call on Twitter, saying they were suspicious of the details of the attack on Jussie Smollett and others outright accusing the actor of lying about the attack that left him bruised and bloodied.
this is obviously either a #hoax or a #lie to cover up something else. it's just too plainly pandering directly to the #intersectional #leftist crowd. #fakenews #hatecrime #empire #jussiesmollet https://t.co/9HiKfQwWhU
— Jack Wagon (@jaxwagon) January 29, 2019
Folks, be careful about this story that TV personality Jussie Smollett was hurt in a homophobic attack in Chicago. This whole story sounds EXACTLY like the sort of stories that are later identified as a hoax.
— Warner Todd Huston (@warnerthuston) January 29, 2019
This is not the first time that The_Donald has claimed that allegations of a far-right attack are fake. Last year, the site and other right-wing media figures said that the series of bombs mailed to opponents of Donald Trump had all the markings of a hoax. As Vanity Fair noted, this included some more mainstream figures like Candace Owens who said there was a “zero percent chance” that conservatives sent the mail bombs and Rush Limbaugh who labeled it a false flag meant to help Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections.
The man later arrested by federal investigators for the bombings was an ardent supporter of Donald Trump who was identified driving a white van completely covered in stickers praising the president.
In Chicago, police have not announced a suspect in the attack on Jussie Smollett and have not divulged a possible motive for the beating.