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The Latest: Show producers: Smollett not being written off

CHICAGO (AP) — The Latest on the attack on 'Empire' cast member Jussie Smollett (all times local): 7:30 p.m. Producers of the television drama "Empire" are disputing reports that Jussie Smollett's character is being written off the show.

Twentieth Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment released a statement Thursday night calling the reports "patently ridiculous." The statement says Smollett "remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him."

The statement comes after Chicago police said local media reports that the attack against Smollett was a hoax are unconfirmed. Smollett has said two masked men shouted racial and homophobic slurs at him before beating him and putting a rope around his neck when he was walking downtown early on Jan. 29.

7:15 p.m.

Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi says local media reports that the attack against "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett was a hoax are unconfirmed.

The reports surfaced as investigators were questioning two "persons of interest" who were captured on surveillance cameras in the area where Smollett says the attack occurred.

Guglielmi says police Superintendent Eddie Johnson has contacted at least one Chicago news outlet to say investigators have no evidence to support their reporting. Guglielmi adds that Johnson said the "supposed CPD sources are uninformed and inaccurate."

Smollett has said two masked men shouted racial and homophobic slurs at him before beating him and putting a rope around his neck when he was walking downtown early on Jan. 29.

11:35 a.m.

Chicago police say they're interviewing two "persons of interest" who surveillance photos show were in the area where "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett says he was attacked last month.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Thursday that the two men aren't considered suspects but may have been in the area at the time.

Guglielmi told The Associated Press that the two men are the same people shown in surveillance photos released last month by police.

Smollett says two masked men shouted racial and homophobic slurs at him before beating him and putting a rope around his neck when he was walking downtown early on Jan. 29.

Guglielmi says the men were identified through the use of advanced technology, interviews with Smollett and witnesses, and transportation records.

9 a.m.

"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett is responding to critics who question his report about being attacked in downtown Chicago last month.

Smollett told police two masked men shouted racial and homophobic slurs at him, attacked him and put a rope around his neck early on Jan. 29. The 36-year-old actor is black and openly gay.

Smollett tells ABC News it's "ridiculous" to think he'd lie in his explanation for being outside at 2 a.m. in frigid Chicago weather.

He says he left the rope and clothes on when police arrived "because I wanted them to see." He says accusations that the attack was a date gone bad are offensive.

No arrests have been made. Police say they've not found surveillance video that shows the attack but that the investigation is ongoing.

See AP's complete coverage of the Jussie Smollett case: https://www.apnews.com/JussieSmollett

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