Police are investigating a suspicious attack Empire actor Jussie Smollett said occurred early Tuesday morning in downtown Chicago. Smollett, who is African-American and openly homosexual, claims two men shouted racist and anti-gay slurs at him, struck him in the face, doused him with an unknown substance, and wrapped a rope around his neck. Smollett reportedly told police that his attackers also told him he was in “MAGA country,” a reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
Smollett, 36, was treated at the hospital and discharged. He said he plans to perform at a concert in Los Angeles this weekend.
Meanwhile, detectives are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime. So far, after reviewing surveillance footage, they have not identified any witnesses or found any video of the attack, according to Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. On Wednesday night, Guglielmi tweeted photos of two silhouetted figures, calling them potential “people of interest.” He also noted that the FBI was investigating a threatening letter sent to Smollett at the Fox broadcast studio in Chicago last week.
Smollett is known for his LGBT advocacy and plays an openly gay character on the Fox show Empire. Earlier this month, he tweeted a profanity-laced message to the president, calling him a “dumpster full of hate.”
Some have questioned the veracity of Smollett’s story, noting the police have not yet found video of the attack, which occurred in a part of town with numerous surveillance cameras. The actor’s family released a statement defending him Thursday, saying he was a victim of an inhumane act of domestic terrorism. When asked at a Thursday news conference about the attack on Smollett, Trump expressed sympathy, saying, “That, I can tell you, is horrible. I’ve seen it. Last night. It’s horrible. Doesn’t get worse.” —Mary Jackson