'Empire' Star Jussie Smollett Hospitalized After Homophobic, Racist Attack
By Antoinette Bueno
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Jussie Smollett has been hospitalized in Chicago after an apparent homophobic and racist attack, ET can confirm.
According to the Chicago Police Department's incident details, a 30-something man was walking when two unknown offenders approached him and gained his attention by yelling out racial and homophobic slurs towards him. Police say the offenders allegedly began to attack the victim with their hands about the face and poured an unknown chemical substance onto the victim.
At some point during the alleged incident, one of the offenders wrapped a rope around the victim's neck. According to police, the offenders then fled the scene, and the victim was self-transported to Northwestern Hospital. He is in good condition, and Area Central Detectives are investigating.
Chicago Police Department spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi sent out a statement to ET on Tuesday reading: "Overnight, the Chicago Police Department received a report of a possible racially-charged assault and battery involving a cast member of the television show Empire. Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime. Detectives are currently working to gather video, identify potential witnesses and establish an investigative timeline. The victim is fully cooperating with investigators and we ask anyone with information about this incident to contact Area Central Detectives at 312-747-8382 or report it anonymously to www.cpdtip.com."
A source tells ET that Smollett is physically OK but is emotionally shaken.
"Jussie was walking when two guys started yelling racial and homophobic slurs at the Empire star," the source says. "Jussie was then attacked by the men and was repeatedly hit. Jussie tried to protect himself and at one point the men poured a substance on him believed to be bleach and one of the guys put a rope around his neck. After some time the men fled the scene and Jussie went to the hospital. Jussie is mostly physically OK with some scrapes and bruises, but he’s more emotionally shook up.”
According to TMZ, the attack happened at around 2 a.m. when Smollett went out to get a sandwich, after which someone yelled, "Aren't you that f***ot 'Empire' n*****?" The outlet reports that the the two offenders -- who allegedly are white and wore ski masks -- beat Smollett badly enough to fracture a rib, then tied a rope around his neck and poured bleach on him.
"This is MAGA country," TMZ reports the offenders yelled as they fled after the assault.
Despite TMZ reporting that Smollett’s assailants shouted “"This is MAGA country,” a spokesperson for the Chicago PD tells ET: “We do not have information about what the attackers were shouting at this time.”
ThatGrapeJuice.Net, who was first to report the news, also published an alleged note Smollett received prior to the attack, which threatens him and contains a homophobic slur.
ET has reached out to Smollett's rep.
A spokesperson for GLAAD tells ET that they've reached out to the 35-year-old actor to offer support.
“GLAAD reached out to FOX and Jussie’s team today to offer assistance as well as support for him," the statement reads. "Jussie is a true champion for LGBTQ people and is beloved by the community and allies around the world.”
Smollett appeared to be in good spirits as late as Monday, when he Instagrammed his arrival in Chicago.
"#Mood after spending 7 hours on a plane for a 2 hour flight but finally landing all good," he wrote alongside a smiling picture of himself. "Love y’all. Goodnight #WinterVortexIsHurr #ChicagoWeatherAintNoJoke #Smile #troubadourFeb2 #Freedom."
“There’s never been a closet that I’ve been in,” he said, addressing rumors about his sexuality. “So that’s why I choose not to talk ‘bout my personal life. But there is without a doubt, no closet that I’ve ever been in, and I just wanted to make that clear, but it was most important for me to make that clear to you on your show at this time in the world. And that’s where I’m at.”
"I get tired of the idea of someone telling me what my truth is," Smollett said. "I've said from the beginning of my journey: I do not hide who I am. I love who I love. No one is going to tell me that somehow that is going to be my disability."
"I am told so many times that I should not walk truly in my blackness," he continued. "That I should not walk truly in my sexuality, I should not walk truly in who I am. I say thanks but no thanks, f**k you and goodbye. I honestly think that me being myself has actually helped my career move forward."
ET spoke to Smollett last November, when he talked about the Empire storyline of his character Jamal falling in love with journalist Kai (Toby Onwumere), who is HIV-positive. Smollett said it was a development in the show that he had “been pushing and pitching for so long.”
“I was so deeply honored and grateful to be able to tell that storyline," he said. "This is my favorite storyline for Jamal ever."