Jussie Smollett Was Possibly Inspired by Hate Crime Against 'Empire' Creator Lee Daniels' Cousin

Empire actor Jussie Smollett might have been inspired to stage a hate crime against himself after the show's co-creator, Lee Daniels, opened up about his cousin being assaulted because he is gay.

Sources close to the show told TMZ some of Smollett's former co-stars think Smollett started thinking about staging the attack after Daniels shared a video on Instagram on Jan. 10. In the video, the Precious filmmaker called out homophobia, writing in the caption, "This past week my cousin was beat up for being gay and I am sick of hearing these stories."

"It's the beginning of a new year and we need to do better," Daniels wrote in the caption. "We need to continue to remember to love and to turn against the hate that we're seeing out there. But we all need to fight that fight together. For all the people who are hurting, who are struggling, and who are trying to find some meaning in this life, I am here to say if you need a safe place or a ear to listen, then I'm here. I'm listening to what you're saying and what you're going through. I am standing up for you and will continue to fight for you. This is my mission and message to you for the beginning of 2019."

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This past week my cousin was beat up for being gay and I am sick of hearing these stories. It’s the beginning of a new year and we need to do better. We need to continue to remember to love and to turn against the hate that we’re seeing out there. But we all need to fight that fight together. For all the people who are hurting, who are struggling, and who are trying to find some meaning in this life, I am here to say if you need a safe place or a ear to listen, then I’m here. I’m listening to what you’re saying and what you’re going through. I am standing up for you and will continue to fight for you. This is my mission and message to you for the beginning of 2019. If you are struggling check out the link in my bio and please go to @glaad @humanrightscampaign @trevorproject 💙💙

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Daniels also told his fans to support GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign and the Trevor Project, which provides suicide prevention intervention to LGBTQ+ youth.

TMZ's sources said Daniels shared more about the attack on his cousin with the Empire cast and crew.

Smollett claimed he was attacked by two men on Jan. 29 while walking to his Chicago apartment. He claimed they yelled racial and homophobic slurs, dumped an unknown chemical on him and put a noose around his neck. However, Chicago Police now say the attack was a staged hoax, intended to get Smollett attention because he was unhappy with his salary on Empire. Smollett allegedly paid two brothers $3,500 to stage the attack with a personal check.

Smollett turned himself in to police Thursday morning after being indicted for allegedly filing a false police report. He was released after posting part of his $100,000 bond and reportedly went back to the Empire set.

On Friday, Fox announced his character was being written out of the final episodes, and there are rumors he might be recast.

"The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us," Empire producers said in a statement. "Jussie has been an important member of our Empire family for the past five years and we care about him deeply. While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out."

The producers said in order to "avoid further disruption on set," Smollett's Jamal character was cut.

Smollett himself has maintained his innocence. His representatives said he feels "betrayed" by the criminal justice system.

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"Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system," the statement read. "The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably, on the eve of a Mayoral election."

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