Hollywood, Lawmakers Express Shock, Anger After ‘Empire’ Star Jussie Smollett Attacked In Apparent Hate Crime

Jussie Smollett, one of the stars of the Fox television show “Empire,” was attacked in Chicago early Tuesday morning by two masked men who yelled racial and homophobic slurs and wrapped a rope around his neck, according to the Chicago Police Department, who said they were investigating the attack as “a possible hate crime,” reports The New York Times.

According to a statement from the Chicago Police Department, the singer and actor was walking on a downtown street when two people approached him and yelled the slurs before hitting Smollett in the face and pouring an “unknown chemical substance” on him.

Before fleeing the scene, one of the attackers wrapped a rope around Smollett’s neck. Smollett, who is black and publicly came out as gay in 2015, walked himself to Northwestern Hospital and was described as in “good condition.”

“Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime,” the police statement said.

TMZ initially reported that attackers screamed, “This is MAGA country,” during the attack. Police have yet to confirm this detail.

Hate crimes have been a sharp rise since the election of President Trump, according to the most recent nationwide data from the F.B.I., rising 17 percent in 2017 from the year before. Of the more than 7,100 recorded incidents attributed to prejudice in 2017, about 16 percent were attacks on sexual orientation.

Lee Daniels, a co-creator of “Empire,” showed his support for Smollett in a video posted to Instagram on Tuesday, “Jussie, you are my son. You didn’t deserve, nor anybody deserves, to have a noose put around your neck, to have bleach thrown on you, to be called ‘die fa*** ni***’ or whatever they said to you,” he said. “You are better than that. We are better than that. America is better than that. It starts at home….We have to love each other regardless of what sexual orientation we are because it shows we are united on a united front.”

Danny Strong, another co-creator, wrote on Twitter that he was “deeply horrified and saddened” by the incident, calling the assailants “hate filled cowards.”

Film director and producer Barry Jenkins tweeted: “Thinking of Jussie. Saddened. Heartbroken. Angry. ALL of it. Wouldn’t matter that he is the kindest soul. But he IS the kindest soul. And this is FUCKED. This is what all that hateful mongering has wrought. Are you PROUD???”

Actor Jordan Peele tweeted: “Hard to focus on anything but anger. So much love for Jussie.”

Actress Viola Davis tweeted: “OMG!! THIS is why the LGBTQ community continue to fight to be seen and PROTECTED against hate! We ALL have to take this racist and homophobic act of violence very personally! My arms are around you @jussiesmollett. You are loved! ”

Actress Rosie O’Donnell tweeted:

Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, who officially announced his presidential bid in San Antonio this month, tweeted:

Republican strategist Ana Navarro tweeted: “I saw Jussie Smollett in Miami last week. I can’t believe this happened. It is sad and disgusting and deplorable.”

Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wrote: “This is a sickening and outrageous attack, and horribly, it’s the latest of too many hate crimes against LGBTQ people and people of color. We are all responsible for condemning this behavior and every person who enables or normalizes it. Praying for Jussie and his family.”

Parkland shooting survivor Cameron Kasky simply tweeted: “At a loss for words.”

The Human Rights Campaign: “Our thoughts are with Jussie Smollett after this horrifying attack. It’s a tragic reminder that racism and homophobia are still rampant in the U.S. @HRC applauds the Chicago Police Department for investigating this attack against @JussieSmollett as a possible hate crime.”

The Ellen Show’s Kalen Allen tweeted: