As Jussie Smollett story takes a turn, reaction shifts to wait and see

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After Jussie Smollett reported being attacked in Chicago, his colleagues, politicians and many observers on social media were quick to condemn the incident and express support for Smollett.

Now as new details emerge, conversation around the case is more hesitant.

Two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation have told CNN that Chicago Police believe Smollett paid two men to orchestrate the alleged assault.

In a statement from his attorneys issued Saturday, Smollett denied playing a role in the attack.

“As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with,” the statement read. “He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.”

The “Empire” star told authorities two men who were “yelling out racial and homophobic slurs” assaulted him on January 29. He said one attacker put a rope around his neck and poured an unknown chemical substance on him.

“I don’t even know what to say about Jussie Smollett. His story has seemed suspect for days now but I genuinely thought no one, and especially no one that famous, could make something like that up,” writer Roxane Gay tweeted.

Director Ava DuVernay also weighed in.

“Despite the inconsistencies, I can’t blindly believe Chicago PD. The department that covered up shooting Laquan McDonald over a dozen times? That operated an off-site torture facility?” DuVernay wrote in a tweet. “That one? I’ll wait. Whatever the outcome, this won’t stop me from believing others. It can’t.”

On Monday, video of Sen. Cory Booker commenting on the latest in Smollett’s case was being widely shared on social media.

“The information is still coming out,” Booker said. “I’m going to withhold until all the information actually comes out from on the record sources.”

Booker, who is running for president, was one of several Democrats to weigh in on initial reports of the attack.

The senator tweeted that it was “an attempted modern-day lynching” and connected it to the need to pass legislation designating lynching as a federal hate crime.

Critics from the right have also had plenty to say.

In an interview with “Good Morning America” last week, Smollett said one of his attacker’s said “‘This MAGA country n****r’ and he punched me in the face so I punched his a** back.”

There had also been initial inaccurate news reports that the attackers wore Make America Great (MAGA) hats, something Smollett denied during his “GMA” interview.

“I never said that,” he said. “I didn’t need to add anything like that. to add anything like that. They called me a f****t, they called me a n****r. There’s no which way you cut it. I don’t need some MAGA hat as the cherry on some racist sundae.”

Donald Trump Jr. tweeted about the latest developments in the Smollett case on Monday.

“Hey Hollywood and media types, I’ve noticed a lot of you deleted your #JusticeForJussie tweets… what’s the matter, don’t you want justice for him anymore??? #frauds,” Donald Trump Jr. tweeted Monday.

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