“Empire” star Jussie Smollett was allegedly attacked around 2 a.m. on Tuesday in Chicago, and it is being investigated as a hate crime.
TMZ reports Smollett, who is black, was attacked by two white men in ski masks who allegedly pulled a noose around his neck and shouted racial slurs while beating him, fracturing a rib.
Now, TMZ has an update from the Chicago PD. The department says Jussie told them in an interview that the men were yelling “MAGA country.” MAGA stands for President Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
The site also reports Smollett, who has been released from the hospital, still had the noose around his neck when police spoke to him nearly 45 minutes after the attack. They are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.
Earlier, in a statement to "Extra," Anthony Guglielmi, Chief Spokesperson of the Chicago Police Department, said, "Overnight, the Chicago Police Department received a report of a possible racially-charged assault and battery involving a cast member of the television show ‘Empire.’ Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime. Detectives are currently working to gather video, identify potential witnesses and establish an investigative timeline."
"Extra" has obtained the dispatch call, which noted that Jussie "was assaulted when he walked out of his apartment.”
An insider tells Variety that filming has continued on the set of "Empire," while a source tells TMZ that Jussie and his co-stars will now have armed security while filming in Chicago.
"Empire" co-creator Lee Daniels shared his emotional reaction to the attack on Instagram. He said in part, "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 f--got n--ga’ or whatever they said to you. You are better than that. We are better than that. America is better than that.”
FOX also released a statement, saying, "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 storng, 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."
ThatGrapeJuice.Net reports that the 35-year-old was the subject of a threatening letter received by Fox Studios in Chicago that was sent over a week before the attack, which read, “You will die black f--.” You can see a photo of the letter here.
Before the incident, Jussie documented his flight to Chicago after it was delayed in NYC.
Smollett came out as gay on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" in 2015.