Jussie Smollett was hospitalized after an attack in Chicago late Monday night, according to TMZ. Two white men wearing ski masks approached Smollett, who is openly gay and plays a gay character on Empire, outside of a Subway, beat him up, called him “that f—got Empire n—,” put his head in a noose, and yelled, “This is MAGA country.” According to a statement from the Chicago Police, the men also “poured an unknown chemical substance on the victim” during the assault and later fled the scene. Smollett self-transported to Northwestern Memorial Hospital and is in “good condition.” Chicago police said they are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime. ThatGrapeJuice.Net posted a photo of racist and homophobic hate mail Smollett previously received, implying that the attack may have been premeditated.
“We are deeply saddened and outraged to learn that a member of our Empire family, Jussie Smollett, was viciously attacked last night,” 20th Century Fox TV and Fox Entertainment said in a 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 stands united in the face of any despicable act of violence and hate — and especially against one of our own.”
In an Instagram post, Empire co-creator Lee Daniels said, “It’s taken me a minute to come to social media about this, because Jussie, you are my son. You didn’t deserve, nor anyone deserves, to have a noose put around your neck; to have bleach thrown on you … you are better than that. We are better than that. America is better than that. It starts at home. We have to love each other regardless of what sexual orientation we are.” Co-creator Danny Strong, meanwhile, tweeted, “The terror of racism and homophobia has no place in our society, it is the most indecent way to live … whoever did this, do not forget that you are nothing but hate filled cowards while Jussie’s talent and activism will continue to shine a bright light on to the world for decades to come.”
Update 7:22 p.m.: According to Chicago police spokesperson Michelle Tannehill, detectives spoke to Smollett this afternoon and the actor recalled that the suspects had said, “This is MAGA country now,” before they fled the scene. Detectives have now filed a supplemental report. Additionally, police confirmed to Vulture that the actor still had the rope around his neck when police arrived on the scene.
Update 1/30 1:40 a.m.: Chicago police announced on Twitter that they have expanded their search area and are reviewing video footage in their search for suspects, but have had no luck so far.
Update 6:40 p.m.: Authorities are looking into “potential persons of interest” in the attack on Smollett after a surveillance camera captured people potentially linked to the crime.
Maria Elena Fernandez contributed reporting.