Jussie Smollett, one of the stars of the television show “Empire,” was attacked by two assailants in Chicago early Tuesday morning, an incident being investigated as “a possible hate crime,” according to police.
Smollett, who is black and publicly came out as gay in 2015, was walking on a downtown street when two people approached him and yelled racial and homophobic slurs, according to a statement released by the Chicago Police Department. The two attackers then began hitting Smollett in the face and poured an “unknown chemical substance” on him.
One of the perpetrators also wrapped a rope around Smollett’s neck before the duo fled. Smollett took himself to Northwestern Hospital and was described as 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 police statement said.
Representatives for Smollett did not respond to a request for comment, nor did Fox, the network on which “Empire” airs.
Danny Strong, an executive producer and co-creator of the show, wrote on Twitter that he was “deeply horrified and saddened” by the attack, calling the assailants “hate filled cowards.”
I’m deeply horrified and saddened by the racist and homophobic attacks against @JussieSmollett. He is a kind and profoundly talented soul whom I respect with all my heart. The terror of racism and homophobia has no place in our society, it is the most indecent way to live...— Danny Strong (@Dannystrong) January 29, 2019
...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.— Danny Strong (@Dannystrong) January 29, 2019
GLAAD, an organization that tracks representation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the media, released a statement that said that it had reached out to Fox and Smollett’s team “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,” the group said.
Several Democratic politicians and current or potential 2020 presidential candidates also decried the attack, from both Twitter and the Senate floor.
The vicious attack on actor Jussie Smollett was an attempted modern-day lynching. I'm glad he's safe.— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) January 29, 2019
To those in Congress who don't feel the urgency to pass our Anti-Lynching bill designating lynching as a federal hate crime– I urge you to pay attention. https://t.co/EwXFxl5f2m
This is a sickening and outrageous attack, and horribly, it's the latest of too many hate crimes against LGBTQ people and people of color. We are all responsible for condemning this behavior and every person who enables or normalizes it. Praying for Jussie and his family. https://t.co/eylvxhLT0u— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) January 29, 2019
Smollett, in addition to his acting, is well-known as an activist, particularly in HIV/AIDS prevention. On “Empire,” Smollett plays Jamal Lyon, the gay son of music moguls Lucious Lyon, played by Terrence Howard, and Cookie Lyon, portrayed by Taraji P. Henson.