CHICAGO – (Reuters) – Chicago police said on Tuesday they wereinvestigating an assault on “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett as apossible hate crime after two men yelled racial and homophobicslurs and wrapped a rope around his neck.
The 36-year-old African-American actor, who is gay, wasreported to be in good condition after taking himself to ahospital after the incident early on Tuesday, police said.
“Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking thisinvestigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hatecrime,” Chicago police said in a statement.
Police did not identify Smollett by name, but gave his ageand said he had a role on “Empire.” The show’s co-creator, LeeDaniels, and representatives from 20th Century Fox Televisionand Fox Entertainment confirmed he was the victim.
“We have to love each other, regardless of what sexualorientation we are, because it shows that we are united,”Daniels said in a profanity-laced video on his Instagramaccount.
“Hold your head up Jussie,” Lee added.
The two unknown assailants, police said, approached Smolletton the street about 2 a.m. CST and began a “possible raciallymotivated” attack, yelling racial and homophobic slurs.
The assailants hit him in the face, poured an “unknownchemical substance” on him and wrapped a rope around his neckbefore fleeing, police said.
Detectives were gathering video of the area and looking forwitnesses.
A representative for Smollett did not respond to requestsfor comment.
“Empire,” a hip-hop musical drama series, premiered on FoxTelevision in 2015. Its lead actress, Taraji P. Henson, won aGolden Globe Award in 2016 for her role and the show hasreceived multiple Emmy Award nominations. Smollett plays thecharacter Jamal Lyon, a member of the family that is the focusof the show.
Smollett’s colleagues said they were shocked.
“The terror of racism and homophobia has no place in oursociety, it is the most indecent way to live,” Empireco-creator Danny Strong said on Twitter.
Raquel Willis, an African-American transgender rightsactivist and executive editor of Out magazine, a lifestylepublication that centers on the LGBT community, condemned theattack on Twitter.
“The hate that fuels white supremacy is the same hate thatfuels homophobia,” Willis said. “A conscientious societyrealizes it’s at war with both.”(Reporting by Peter Szekely and Gina Cherelus in New York andAlex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank McGurty andPeter Cooney)