“Empire” star Jussie Smollett told detectives his attackers yelled about “MAGA” as well as yelling racist and homophobic slurs as they assaulted him early Tuesday, Chicago police told TheWrap.
The Chicago Police Department, without naming Smollett in its statement, said a “cast member from the Fox series ‘Empire’ was injured in what police called a ‘possible racially-charged assault and battery.’” The assault took place in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago.
Police said Smollett, 36, was walking when two offenders started yelling the racist and homophobic slurs. The offenders then “began to batter the victim with their hands about the face and poured an unknown chemical substance on the victim,” and one put a rope around his neck, according to police.
Smollett then drove himself to Northwestern Hospital, where he’s in good condition, a person with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap.
Late Tuesday, Chicago police officer Michelle Tannehill told TheWrap that Smollett did not initially mention the attackers shouting about MAGA — an abbreviation of President Trump’s “Make American Great Again” slogan — but did bring up “MAGA” in a follow-up interview.
Tannehill said there were no suspects as of Tuesday night, but that police were looking into charges of “possible racially charged assault and battery.”
The case has brought an outpouring of love for Smollett and widespread condemnation of the attack. Some online have objected to the word “possible,” saying the hateful element of such a crime is obvious. But Tannehill said police routinely use the word “possible” in cases when the an investigation is not yet complete.
Smollett told Ellen DeGeneres on her show in 2015 that “there is without a doubt, no closet that I’ve ever been in, and I just wanted to make that clear.”
On “Empire,” he plays Jamal Lyon, a gay musician. Executive producer Danny Strong condemned the attack on Twitter on Tuesday, saying the “terror of racism and homophobia has no place in our society.”
“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 Television and Fox Entertainment said in a statement shared with TheWrap. “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.”
GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, in a statement Tuesday afternoon, said it was “disgusting that anyone, especially someone who has done such good for so many, would be targeted by undeniable hatred.”
Anyone with information is being asked to call Chicago detectives at (312) 747-8382 or share an anonymous tip at cpdtip.com.