Empire star Jussie Smollett was hospitalized early Tuesday morning in Chicago following a reported violent attack by two men wearing ski masks, who yelled homophobic and racial slurs while hitting him over the head. Police are reportedly investigating the attack as a hate crime that took place near a Subway sandwich shop, where two men are said to have confronted Smollett at around 2:00 am. TMZ first reported the story with disturbing details, many of which have been confirmed (via the Chicago Police Department) by Variety:
According to a statement released by the Chicago Police Department, Smollett was beaten by two men who approached him by yelling out “racial and homophobic slurs” at approximately 2 a.m. Tuesday morning in the 300 block of E. North Water Street. They proceeded to assault Smollett and “poured an unknown chemical substance” on him. The two men are also said to have put a rope around Smollett’s neck before fleeing on foot.
TMZ reported that the chemical substance used by the men was bleach and that they shouted, “This is MAGA country!” Those particular details haven’t yet been confirmed by the Chicago PD (and the Daily Beast says the PD has no record of that quote), although it was also reported that Smollett was allegedly the recipient of a death threat last week.
Following the attack, Smollett transported himself to a nearby hospital. He has since been discharged in “good condition,” according to the Chicago PD. On Monday night, Smollett Instagrammed about arriving on a flight from NYC to Chicago, where he was due to perform on Saturday and where he films FOX’s Empire. On the show, the openly gay actor plays Jamal Lyon, a gay character who’s part of the musical family dynasty.
Deadline reports a statement from GLAAD about the attack. “GLAAD reached out to FOX and Jussie’s team today to offer assistance as well as support for him,” said the association. “Jussie is a true champion for LGBTQ people and is beloved by the community and allies around the world.”
Empire executive producer Danny Strong has stated that he’s “deeply horrified and saddened” while condemning the attack on Smollett.
UPDATE #1 – 2:43pm EST: FOX has issued a statement in support of Smollett via Twitter:
“We are deeply saddened and outraged to learn that a member of our EMPIRE family, Jussie Smollett, was viciously attacked last night. 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.”