A tearful Jussie Smollett has said he has been “forever changed” by the allegedly racist and homophobic attack he suffered at the hands of two masked men in Chicago last month.
Speaking with ABC News, the 36-year-old actor said he felt a responsibility to turn publicity around the incident into something “meaningful”.
During a wide-ranging interview broadcast on the American news channel, Smollett cried as he described the attack and its aftermath.
He said: “I will never be the man who this didn’t happen to.
“I am forever changed and I don’t subscribe to the idea that everything happens for a reason, but I do subscribe to the idea that we have the right and responsibility to make something meaningful out of the things that happen to us, good and bad.”
Asked what message he wanted to send by speaking about the attack, he replied: “I want young people, young members of the LGTBQ community, young black children, to know how strong they are, to know the power they hold in their little pinky.”
Chicago police said on Thursday evening that its detectives had identified the persons of interest in the area of the attack and that they were being questioned, but that they were not being treated as suspects.
Smollett, who is black and openly gay, told police that his attackers doused him with an unknown chemical substance and shouted racial and homophobic slurs at him before looping what police said was a thin rope tied like a noose around his neck.
He said he found it insulting that people had implied the attack might have been the result of a “date gone bad”, suggesting such claims were motivated by homophobia.
“I’ve also heard that it was a date gone bad, which I so resent, that narrative. I’m not going to go out and get a tuna sandwich and salad to meet somebody.
“There’s (gay dating apps) Grindr, yes, there’s Jack’d, yes, there are all these things. I’ll admit I was on that back in the day. I was single, you know what I’m saying. But I haven’t been on that in years.”
Challenged as to why he had not handed his phone to police immediately after the attack, Smollett replied that he had wanted to protect personal details kept on the device.
He said: “They wanted me to give my phone to tech for three to four hours. I’m sorry but I’m not going to do that. I have private pictures and videos and numbers, private emails, my private songs, my private voice memos.
“By then inaccurate false statements had already been put out there.”
Smollett was also asked about reports, since proven false, that his attackers wore Make America Great Again hats.
He said: “I didn’t need to add anything like that. There’s no way to cut it. You don’t need some Maga hat to be the cherry on top of a racist sundae.”
Police have made no arrests and said they have found no surveillance video that shows the attack.
They released film of two people in the area at the time who they said were persons of interest.