On January 29th, Variety reported that Empire star Jussie Smollett was attacked in what was called a “potential” hate crime and was hospitalized in Chicago. In a police statement obtained by the site, officers wrote that two men shouting “racial and homophobic slurs” approached the 36-year-old actor early on the morning of the 29th. They allegedly beat Smollett, pouring an “unknown chemical substance” on him and wrapping a rope around his neck. Anonymous sources told TMZ that the men also yelled “This is MAGA country,” and Smollett later reportedly confirmed to the police that this was, in fact, the case. After the attack, Smollett went to Northwestern Hospital, where he was reported to be in good condition.
And now, Smollett himself has spoken out about the attack in a February 1st statement to Essence:
“Let me start by saying that I’m OK,” he began. “My body is strong but my soul is stronger. More importantly, I want to say thank you. The outpouring of love and support from my village has meant more than I will ever be able to truly put into words.I am working with authorities and have been 100% factual and consistent on every level. Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served.”
In a January 31st Instagram post, the Smollett family released a statement about the incident, confirming that it was—without any shadow of a doubt—a hate crime. “In the early hours of Tuesday morning, our beloved son and brother, Jussie, was the victim of a violent and unprovoked attack,” the statement began on Smollett’s sister’s page.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Smollett first came out on a 2015 episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. At the time, he said that “there’s never been a closet that I’ve been in.” His character on Empire, Jamal Lyon, is also gay. In a statement to THR, GLAAD said that it has offered to help Smollett and his team, as well as Fox, where Empire airs.
We’re wishing Smollett a speedy recovery, and we hope the people who did this to him are brought to justice immediately.