Empire's Jussie Smollett victim of brutal homophobic attack in Chicago

Tue. January 29, 2019 10:47 AM by GoPride.com News Staff

jussie smollett

photo credit // steven koch / chicagopride.com

Actor attacked by two men who tied a noose around his neck and doused him in bleach

Chicago, IL - Empire star Jussie Smollett was hospitalized after a brutal homophobic and racist attack in Chicago.

Smollett was attacked at approximately 2 a.m. Tuesday morning in the 300 block of E. North Water St. in the Streeterville neighborhood, Chicago Police confirmed to ChicagoPride.com. 

The 36-year-old actor was attacked by two men "yelling out racial and homophobic slurs" to get his attention before beating him, according to police. The men poured an unknown chemical substance - later reported to have been bleach - on Smollett and wrapped a rope around his neck before fleeing.

"Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime," CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement. "Detectives are currently working to gather video, identify potential witnesses and establish an investigative timeline."

TMZ reported, the two men - both wearing ski masks - yelled, "Aren't you that f***ot 'Empire' n*****?" After attacking Smollet, the men - according to a TMZ source - yelled, "This is MAGA country," referring to the slogan "Make America Great Again." 

ChicagoPride.com has not independently confirmed whether the MAGA quote was yelled. 

Update 5:50 PM CT: CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tells ChicagoPride.com that Smollett did not initially report the MAGA statement to officers, but during a follow-up, supplemental interview with detectives Smollett confirmed the attackers yelled, "This is MAGA country."

Smollett was hospitalized at Northwestern Hospital in good condition. He has since been released.  

Smollett, who lives in Chicago while filming the hit series, reportedly received a threat by mail about one week prior to this chilling incident. The letter, sent to the Fox Studios in Chicago and later posted by TheGrapeJuice.net, had cut out letters spelling, "You will die black f**."

A representative for Smollett did not immediately return ChicagoPride.com's request for comment. 

Smollett came out gay during a 2015 interview with Ellen DeGeneres. He is best known for his breakout role as R&B artist Jamal Lyon in Fox's musical drama Empire.

In June 2018, Smollett headlined PrideFest Milwaukee and on October 11 he performed at Chicago's AT&T Flagship Store on Michigan Ave. as part of National Coming Out Day. 

Police are investigating the attack as a possible hate crime. Anyone with information about this incident to contact Area Central Detectives at 312-747-8382 or report it anonymously to www.cpdtip.com.

Update: 6:15 PM CT: ABC News reports the FBI is assisting in the investigation, including the threat made before Tuesday morning's brutal attack.  

GLAAD calls Jussie Smollet 'True Champion'

"GLAAD reached out to FOX and Jussie's team today to offer assistance as well as support for him," GLAAD said in a statement. "Jussie is a true champion for LGBTQ people and is beloved by the community and allies around the world."

Tweets for Jussie

"No words," tweeted Margaret Cho. "Love to you @Jussie Smollett."

"I hope @JussieSmollett is okay and I hope the @Chicago_Police find the animals who did this to him," tweeted Ike Barinholtz.

"Words fail, but know this, @JussieSmollett is our son, our brother and the word LOVE seems insufficient. We stand with you and pray for your speedy recovery. This will not go unanswered. When you attack one of us, you will answer to ALL OF US. Know that," tweeted Wilson Cruz.

"DEAR GOD! Prayers and justice for Jussie Smollett," tweeted Kerry Washington.

"I'm pissed. Love you @JussieSmollett and your family," tweeted Wanda Sykes.

"This is happening. NOW. In OUR country," tweeted Jesse Tyler Ferguson.

Lee Daniels: "Just another day in America"

Empire creator Lee Daniels took to Instagram to express his outrage to the attack.