Chicago, IL – The FOX television series “Empire” is facing its lowest ratings ever in the wake of its star’s staged hate crime debacle in the Windy City.
On Wednesday night, the drama about a hip-hop music studio and the family that started it received its lowest ratings ever, the New York Post reported.
The episode aired just one day after the Cook County State’s Attorney dropped all 16 felony charges against “Empire” star Jussie Smollett in a highly controversial move that made city leaders furious.
Smollett took the microphone during a celebratory press conference outside the courthouse after an “emergency hearing” during which his charges were dropped and his record was sealed.
He thanked his supporters and said he was ready “to get back to work” after he declared, once again, his innocence.
But the prosecutor who dropped the charges has said they did not believe Smollett was innocent and that he stood behind the Chicago Police Department’s case against the “Empire” actor.
Only 3.97 million viewers tuned in to watch “Empire” on March 27, the New York Post reported.
This is down from just over 6 million viewers watching the FOX television drama six months ago, according to TV Series Finale.
Viewership of “Empire” has been slowly declining since September, but critics said the brutal drop to 4.39 million viewers when the show returned to the air on March 13 can likely be credited to the revelation that one of the show’s stars had staged a fake hate crime against himself.
After the charges were dropped, producers appeared to stand by the “Empire” star with a tepid statement of support, Vox reported.
“Jussie Smollett has always maintained his innocence, and we are gratified on his behalf that all charges against him have been dismissed,” 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment said in a written statement.
The network has not yet announced whether “Empire” will be renewed for another season amidst the crashing ratings and continued drama surrounding Smollett. Nor have they said whether Smollett would be invited back to the show in the event it is renewed.
Smollett told police on Jan. 29 that he had been attacked by two white supporters of President Donald Trump on his way home from a Subway restaurant.
He claimed the men called him homophobic and anti-black slurs and told him “This is MAGA country” as they beat him up and put a noose around his neck. He also said they threw a chemical on him.
However, investigators quickly figured out that something was amiss, and then identified Smollett’s attackers.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson explained at a press conference the day of Smollett’s arrest that that police considered the actor a victim up until Ola and Abel Osundairo returned from Nigeria to Chicago and were taken into police custody, and then the investigation “spun in a totally different direction.”
“We gave him the benefit of the doubt up until that 47th hour. But when we discovered the actual motive, quite frankly, it pissed everybody off,” he explained.
Smollett was initially charged with one felony count of disorderly conduct on Feb. 20 for making a false police report. A grand jury indicted Smollett on 16 counts related to the same crime on March 8 and the prosecutor brought those charges against the actor.
There are several federal investigations ongoing related to Smollett hoax investigation and a hoax death threat letter that police believe the actor sent to himself before the attack.