Jussie Smollett, the out gay African-American star of Fox TV’s “Empire,” was hospitalized after a pair of individuals who identified themselves as Trump supporters hurled homophobic and racist slurs at him before they punched him, poured a chemical substance on him, and “wrapped a rope around” his neck like a noose, according to the Chicago Police Department.
Smollett was walking in the 300 block of East North Lower Water Street — just blocks from North Michigan Avenue’s fabled Magnificent Mile retail district — at 2 a.m. on Tuesday morning when the two individuals pounced on him, according to police. He managed to escape, and the attackers fled the scene before Smollett made his way to Northwestern Hospital.
He is currently listed in good condition.
“Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime,” the Chicago Police Department said in a statement. “Detectives are currently working to gather video, identify potential witnesses, and establish an investigative timeline.”
Smollett had just arrived back in Chicago from New York and was walking to order food when he was attacked, sources told TMZ. At that point, one person said, “Aren’t you that faggot ‘Empire’ n*****?” As they fled, the attackers yelled, “This is MAGA country.”
Hours after the story broke, the Chicago Police Department said it had no information about the “MAGA” comment, but CNN is now reporting that the department, after hearing news reports about it, contacted Smollett and he relayed the information in a “supplemental interview.”
A letter addressed to Smollett was sent to Fox Studios last week saying, “You will die black fag,” with “MAGA” written on the top left-hand corner, according to ThatGrapeJuice.net.
Neither the Chicago police nor Fox, in a statement about the attack on Smollett, made mention of that letter.
Advocates and LGBTQ groups extended their best wishes to Smollett and called for swift action in the case.
“Jussie is not alone,” the New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) said in a tweet. “Gay Black men are some of the most vulnerable to experiencing violence in the LGBTQ community and this must continue to be addressed, disrupted, and challenged on all fronts.”
GLAAD cited findings from AVP showing that the severity of hate crimes against LGBTQ people has increased in the past several years.
“Our hearts are with Jussie Smollett today,” GLAAD said in a Twitter post. “This attack must be investigated thoroughly.”
The 36-year-old actor, who came out as gay in 2015, has starred in a variety of films dating back to the 1980s when he was in “The Mighty Ducks.” He has played multiple LGBTQ-related roles, including in “Empire” as well as the film “The Skinny,” which followed five African-American friends from Brown University who reunite in New York City for Gay Pride Weekend.