Jussie Smollett, Empire star, assaulted in possible homophobic attack

“Empire” star Jussie Smollett was hospitalized after a possible homophobic and “racially-charged assault and battery,” Chief Anthony Guglielmi of the Chicago Police Department said in a statement Tuesday. 

The attack is being investigated as a hate crime, according to a press release sent to USA TODAY. 

“Detectives are currently working to gather video, identify potential witnesses and establish an investigative timeline,” the press release stated. “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.”

According to police, Smollett was walking on Tuesday when two unknown offenders approached him and started yelling “racial and homophobic slurs.” The offenders then used their hands to batter the victim and poured an unknown chemical substance on him. One of the offenders wrapped a rope around the victim’s neck.

Smollett then transported himself to Northwestern Hospital, according to police. He is in good condition.

20th Century Fox Television, which produces “Empire” and Fox Entertainment, which airs it, commented on the incident In a statement to USA TODAY Tuesday. 

“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 statement read. “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.”

USA TODAY has reached out to Smollett’s rep for comment.

Smollett, who plays gay character Jamal Lyon on “Empire,” joined the hit Fox show in 2015. He also starred in the 2017 film “Marshall.”

During an appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” in March 2015, Smollett came out as gay himself. He expanded upon his sexuality in an interview with Out Magazine in 2016.

“I am a gay man with an extremely open heart … If I had to label myself, I would label myself as a gay man,” he told the magazine at the time. “If I fall in love down the road with a woman, I’m going to love that woman.”

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Support for Smollett following the attack began pouring in through social media Tuesday, including a tweet from his co-star Vivica A. Fox.

“I’m just now hearing the news about the senseless hate attack on my #EMPiRE Nephew @JussieSmollett IM SO ANGRY AND HURT ABOUT THIS! THIS MUST STOP!! SPREAD LOVE NOT HATE! PRAYERS UP TO U NEPHEW!” she tweeted.

“Sending love to Jussie and the Smollett family after this horrific attack,” John Legend said in a tweet. “We support you and pray that you find peace and justice.”

Zendaya also sent her love to Smollett.

“This is heartbreaking and terrifying…please pay attention to what’s happening here. Sending all my love to @JussieSmollett,” she tweeted.

Wanda Sykes also tweeted, writing, “I’m pissed. Love you @JussieSmollett and your family.”

Kerry Washington sent prayers for Smollett.

“DEAR GOD! Prayers and justice for Jussie Smollett,” she tweeted.

Margaret Cho also sent her love.

“No words. Love to you @JussieSmollett,” she tweeted, adding several heart emojis.

As did Billy Eichner, tweeting, “This is so awful. Sending love to @JussieSmollett.”

Jenny Han called the incident “beyond horrifying.”

“My heart goes out to @JussieSmollett,” her tweet continued.

Josh Gad also tweeted his support for Smollett.

“This makes me sick. @JussieSmollett we are all with you today my friend. Sending unlimited love your way,” he said. “My heart breaks for you and a country where this kind of this can still happen on a regular basis.”

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