On Tuesday, Jan. 29, news broke that Empire's Jussie Smollett was attacked in an alleged hate crime in Chicago. The 35-year-old actor, who is openly gay, was allegedly attacked by two people in ski masks, according to a report by TMZ. Chicago police said in a statement to The Daily Beast that the sex of the two attackers has not been confirmed. The two attackers, in addition to allegedly physically assaulting Smollett, allegedly tied a noose around his neck and poured bleach on him. Elite Daily reached out to Smollett's team and Chicago Police for comment on the attack, but did not hear back by the time of publication.
The attack, according to TMZ, occurred around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29 after Smollett had arrived in Chicago from New York to film scenes for the current season of Empire. Smollett reportedly stopped by a Subway to get some food, and as he was walking home, he was reportedly approached by two white people wearing ski masks that reportedly said to him, "Aren't you that f***ot 'Empire' n*****?" They then allegedly attacked Smollett and reportedly yelled, "This is MAGA country" as they left the scene.
According to a statement a spokesperson for the Chicago police gave to The Daily Beast, the sex of the two attackers has not yet been confirmed. Elite Daily reached out to the Chicago police for comment on this report, but did not hear back by the time of publication.
TMZ reports that Smollett got himself to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where he was treated. Chicago police confirmed they conducted interviews with Smollett while he was being treated, and in one of the interviews, Smollett reportedly confirmed that his attackers made the "MAGA country" comment. The attack reportedly occurred around 2 a.m. and Smollett contacted the police at 2:42 a.m. According to TMZ, Smollett was released from the hospital later that day.
This attack occurred eight days after Smollett reportedly received a letter that contained a death threat in the mail. In the photo obtained by TMZ, the message "You will die black f**" was written out in magazine clippings with his name above it. The letter also included a hand-drawn photo of what appears to be a man hanging from a tree with a noose around his neck and a gun pointed at him. The letter appears to say "MAGA" in the top left corner.
Chicago police are investigating this attack as a hate crime and are receiving assistance from the FBI, according to an ABC7 Chicago reporter.
Around 11 a.m. on Jan. 29, FOX (the network Empire is broadcast on) 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.
TMZ reports the cast of Empire was reportedly informed of the hate crime against Smollett while they were on set and will be provided with additional armed security while they're still filming in Chicago.
Celebrities have been responding to the gut-wrenching news with words of love and support for Smollett.
Ariana Grande tweeted about the attack around 5 p.m. on Jan. 29.
"What happened to Jussie makes me really f*cking sick to my stomach," she said. "I can’t believe sh*t like this is really still happening everyday. What kind of world ? Sending all of the healing energy / love I possibly can and hoping for change. What can we do ? Tell me & I’m there."
Janelle Monáe posted an Instagram about Smollett and the sweet gesture he made for her when she opened up about her sexuality for the first time in an interview.
"THIS HATE CRIME against our brother @jussiesmollett is proof that no matter how famous you may be it still does not protect you from vicious racist homophobes !! AND It is still a risk daily to be a BLACK, OUT, and PROUD human being," she said in her caption.
I am sending so much love to you Jussie. Praying for your healing. Thank you for being such an inspiration to me & soooooo mannnnny people. Thank you for inspiring us to walk in our truth. Thank you for choosing freedom over fear. I will continue to walk BOLD, BLACK, & PROUD in your honor always.
She closed off the caption by saying, "With love from your bi/pan/free a** mothaf*cka sis. This pic is of me thanking him for sending flowers after the RS article (which gave me great anxiety btw). What a kind kind kind soul."
The creator and host of the Keep It! podcast, Ira Madison, tweeted about the attack throughout all of Jan. 29 and also posted about it on his Instagram.
Madison, who is openly gay, tweeted, "My heart breaks for Jussie. The hatred this country revels in is sickening."
He expanded more on this in his Instagram caption that started off, "What I will take from today is love for our community PERIOD. Our black LGBTQIA+ family, especially our trans sisters who don’t get nearly the attention as they continue to be killed."
We must hold space for them and for Jussie Smollett in our hearts and our quest for justice. Finally, MAGA is not just a hat and homophobia can no longer be tolerated in any of our communities (black, Hollywood, or otherwise). Be careful the things we say: children will listen. And learn. #JussieSmollett
Activist and writer Deray McKesson, who is also openly gay, responded to the attack against his friend on Instagram.
He posted two photos of him and Smollett laughing together and said, "I love this man. Jussie is such a kind person and incredible friend. And I just saw him in Chicago. I don’t have a lot of words right now but #F*ckMAGA and #F*ckHomophobia."
Zendaya reacted on both Instagram and Twitter.
"I just hope there is justice in this hateful and targeted act of violence," she said. "Sending @jussiesmollett my love and wishing him a speedy recovery. We love you."
John Legend reacted on Twitter.
"Sending love to Jussie and the Smollett family after this horrific attack," Legend tweeted. "We support you and pray that you find peace and justice."
Andy Cohen posted a justifiably heated tweet.
"THIS IS F*CKED UP TO THE CORE," he tweeted. "CATCH THESE EVIL HOMOPHOBES AND LOCK THEM UP FOREVER."
The creator of Empire, Lee Daniels, posted an emotional video to his Instagram about the attack.
“It’s taken me a minute to come to social media about this because Jussie, you are my son," Daniels said. “You didn’t deserve, nor did anybody deserve, to have a noose put around your neck, to have bleach thrown you on. … You are better than that. We are better than that. America is better than that. It starts a home. We have to love each other.”
Billy Eichner responded on Twitter.
"This is so awful. Sending love to @JussieSmollett," he tweeted.
Vice President Joe Biden responded to the attack with words of support as well.
"What happened today to @JussieSmollett must never be tolerated in this country," he tweeted. We must stand up and demand that we no longer give this hate safe harbor; that homophobia and racism have no place on our streets or in our hearts. We are with you, Jussie."
Mindy Kaling sent Smollett love on Twitter.
"I am disgusted and horrified to hear of the homophobic and racial attack on Jussie Smollett last night," Kaling tweeted. "Unfortunately, these hateful attacks happen way too often. We must call out and hold those accountable. Sending love to you, Jussie."
Sending all of the love to Smollett as he heals.