“Empire” star Jussie Smollett was injured in what appears to have been a racist and homophobic attack in the early hours of Tuesday morning, Entertainment Tonight can confirm.
The 35-year-old is said to have arrived in Chicago from New York late Monday before heading to a Subway takeout restaurant for food around 2 a.m., TMZ was first to report.
The Chicago Police Department confirmed the report of an attack against the actor, releasing a statement to ET saying two unknown offenders allegedly gained Smollett’s attention by yelling out racial and homophobic slurs towards him.
They also said the offenders reportedly began to batter the victim with their hands on his face and poured an unknown chemical substance on him.
At some point during the incident, one of the offenders allegedly wrapped a rope around Smollett’s neck before fleeing the scene. The star then took himself to Northwestern Hospital.
CPD chief spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement obtained by ET: “Overnight, the Chicago Police Department received a report of a possible racially-charged assault and battery involving a cast member of the television show ‘Empire’.”
“Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime. Detectives are currently working to gather video, identify potential witnesses and establish an investigative timeline. The victim is fully cooperating with investigators.”
TMZ also reported the two men had screamed, “This is MAGA country” during the attack. Rob Elgas of ABC 7 Chicago confirmed some of the reported details after speaking with a Chicago PD spokesperson, as published in a series of tweets on Monday.
ThatGrapeJuice.Net published a threat letter by an unknown person, which had reportedly been sent to Fox Studios in Chicago eight days ago. It had cut-out letters spelling “You will die black f**k” on it.
Following news of the incident, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment (which produces “Empire”) issued a statement addressing the vicious attack.
“We are deeply saddened and outraged to learn that a member of our ‘Empire’ family, Jussie Smollett, was viciously attacked last night,” reads the statement. “We send our love to Jussie, who is resilient and strong, and we will work with law enforcement to bring these perpetrators to justice. The entire studio, network and production stand united in the face of any despicable act of violence and hate — and especially against one of our own.”
NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson has also released a statement: “The recent racist and homophobic attack on acclaimed actor and activist Jussie Smollett is troubling,” he states. “The rise in hate crimes is directly linked to President Donald J. Trump’s racist and xenophobic rhetoric. It is dangerous for any society to allow a tone of divisiveness and hatred to dominate the political discourse. As this rhetoric continues to bleed into our everyday lives, dangerous behaviour will continue to place many law-abiding individuals at risk. We pray for a full physical and mental recovery Jussie Smollett and many unnamed victims of this form of hate based terrorism.”
In addition, GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis issued a statement. “Our hearts are with Jussie Smollett as he recovers from a hate-motivated and repugnant attack in Chicago. Jussie has always used his voice and talent to create a better world, and it is disgusting that anyone, especially someone who has done such good for so many, would be targeted by undeniable hatred,” she said.
“GLAAD condemns these despicable acts as well as the racism and homophobia that drove them. Law enforcement needs to urgently conduct a thorough investigation and continue to be transparent with Chicago’s Black and LGBTQ communities who may be experiencing heightened fears of violence,” added Ellis.
“Jussie’s experience is sadly not unique in today’s America,” the statement concludes. “Countless LGBTQ and people of colour, as well as those who belong to both communities, are faced with hate-motivated violence on a near-daily basis. We stand with Black and racial justice leaders to combat hate violence in all of its forms.”
After the news emerged online, “Empire” director Eric Haywood posted:
GLAAD also released a statement to Deadline, which read: “GLAAD reached out to Fox and Jussie’s team today to offer assistance as well as support for him. Jussie is a true champion for LGBTQ people and is beloved by the community and allies around the world.”
“Empire” co-creator Lee Daniels took to Instagram to send his support to Smollett via a heartfelt video.
“Empire” star Vivica A. Fox then posted:
“Empire” co-creator, executive producer and writer Danny Strong added:
See more reaction below.
View this post on Instagram
I feel like I shouldn’t have to send out reminders that homophobia & racism are cowardly acts. But yet here we are in Maga Hell. I’m at a loss for words at all of this. Stunned that I’m still surprised this can still happen and keeps happening (and has never stopped happening). I’m trying hard to not make this “thoughts and prayers” meaningless like most posts about things of this nature. I wrote 10 paragraphs and erased em all & turned off the comments. Really angry about this fuckery.