Out Empire star Jussie Smollett was reportedly attacked around 2am Tuesday morning in Chicago by two masked men who put his neck in a noose, poured bleach on him, and, according to TMZ, yelled "This is MAGA country!"—referencing the popular slogan among Trump voters to "Make America Great Again."
A Chicago Police spokesperson contested the MAGA invective being used, telling The Daily Beast, “There is no report of that being said.” However, in a follow-up interview with the police, Smollett confirmed the MAGA reference.
Sources say Smollett, after arriving in Chicago from New York, stopped by a Subway, and upon leaving he was accosted by a stranger, yelling, "Aren't you that faggot Empire nigger?" The 36-year-old singer and actor fought back but suffered a fractured rib during the encounter.
The attack may have been premeditated as Smollett had previously received a crude, threatening letter in the mail with the words "You will die black faggot" rendered in cut-out letters.
The incident was first reported by ThatGrapeJuice.Net, and later confirmed by TMZ. The Chicago Police Department is treating the attack as a possible hate crime and released this statement regarding Smollett:
Smollett was treated for his injuries at Northwestern Memorial and released Tuesday morning. The police ask that anyone with information regarding the attack contact Area Central Detectives at 312-747-8382 or report anonymously through cpdtip.com.
Empire's parent companies 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment released the following statement:
"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.”
This story has also been updated to include the quote from The Daily Beast and Smollett's follow-up interview with the police.
If you’re experiencing anti-LGBTQ hate violence in the Chicago area, reach out to local NCAVP partner Center on Halsted Anti-Violence Project at (773) 472-6469, Ext. 474. For incidents across the nation, find your local NCAVP partner at avp.org/ncavp.