Will ‘Empire’ Survive the Jussie Smollett Scandal? Ratings for the Show Are at an All-Time Low

The Jussie Smollett scandal is taking a toll on Empire. Ratings for the Fox drama have cratered since star Jussie Smollett – who plays Jamal Lyon on the show — was arrested after allegedly staging a hate crime in Chicago and filing a false police report about the incident.

Ratings for the show are at an all-time low

Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson
Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson in Empire | FOX via Getty Images

Two episodes of Empire have aired since Smollett’s arrest. The March 13 episode, which was the show’s midseason premiere, had a 1.3 rating among people aged 18-49 and 4.4 million viewers. That was a 17% ratings drop and a 13% drop in viewership from the last episode of 2018, Variety reported.

Things were even worse for the March 20 episode. Just under 4 million people tuned in, and the episode had a 1.1 rating. That marks an all-time low for the series, which is now in its fifth season.

Producers decided to cut Smollett’s character from the season’s final two episodes of Empire in the wake of the scandal. But he still appeared in March 13 and March 20 episodes.

Lee Daniels is speaking out

Before the most recent episode of Empire aired, the show’s co-creator Lee Daniels shared a message with fans about the controversy.

These past couple of weeks have been a freaking rollercoaster,” Daniels said in a video posted to Instagram on March 20. “Me and my cast have experienced pain, anger, sadness, frustration and really don’t know how to deal with it.”

After mentioning the “incident” (he did not refer to Smollett by name in the video), Daniels said he hoped people could focus on the show, not the scandal involving one of its stars.

“This is not what the show is made for,” he said. “The show is made to bring America together, to talk about the atrocities that are happening right now in the streets.”

Jussie Smollett
Jussie Smollett arrives in court on March 14, 2019, in Chicago |Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

In a statement released after Smollett’s arrest, Daniels and the show’s other producers said that they had removed the actor from the show “to avoid further disruption on set.”

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

Daniels initially voiced strong support for Smollett after he claimed he was assaulted on January 29 by two men who poured bleach on him, placed a noose around his neck, and used racist and homophobic slurs.

Police now believe the actor paid two men to attack him. On March 8, he was indicted on 16 counts of felony disorderly conduct by a grand jury in Cook County. Smollett has pleaded not guilty and is free on bail. He allegedly orchestrated the attack because he was dissatisfied with his Empire salary.

Read more: Taraji P. Henson Explains Why ‘Empire’s’ Cookie Lyon Is So Popular

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!