A cast member on the hit television show “Empire” alleged he was physically attacked by men in Chicago who shouted racial and homophobic slurs, police said Tuesday (January 29).
The police did not release the actor’s name but a statement from Fox, which airs “Empire,” identified him as Jussie Smollett, 36. Authorities said they are investigating the alleged attack as a hate crime. Smollett is black and openly gay.
According to a police statement, the actor was walking near the Chicago River downtown around 2 a.m. Tuesday when he was approached by two men who shouted at him, struck him in the face and poured an “unknown substance” on him before one of them wrapped a rope around his neck.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that when officers first came in contact with Smollett, he still had a rope around his neck. While being interviewed by detectives, Guglielmi said Smollett told them that the attackers yelled he was in “MAGA country,” an apparent reference to the Trump campaign’s “Make America Great Again” slogan that some critics of the president have decried as racist and discriminatory.
The police spokesman added that the two men were wearing masks. Investigators have not found any surveillance video or witnesses from which they can put together a description of the offenders, he said.
Smollett was able to take himself to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He was last reported in good condition.
Guglielmi also said the FBI is investigating a threatening letter targeting Smollett that was sent to the Fox studio in Chicago last week.
Civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton called the alleged attack “outrageous and despicable.” He also said that if the alleged assailants really were shouting slogans related to President Trump, the president should publicly say “if his brand does not represent these kind of alleged attacks.” Sharpton added “his silence is deafening.”