‘Empire’ Star Jussie Smollett Hospitalized After Attack in Chicago Being Investigated as Possible Hate Crime

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.

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.

The hourlong drama "Empire" follows an African-American family as they navigate the ups and downs of the record industry. Jamal Lyon, Smollett's character, is the gay, middle son of Empire Entertainment founder Lucious Lyon and Cookie Lyon, played by Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, respectively.

Twentieth Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment released a statement Tuesday in support of Smollett. "The entire studio, network and production stands united in the face of any despicable act of violence," the statement read.

"Empire" co-creator Lee Daniels also voiced his support for Smollett in an Instagram video.

"You didn't deserve, nor anybody deserves, to have a noose put around your neck," Daniels said. "You are better than that, we are better than that, America is better than that."

California Sen. Kamala Harris, a 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful, knows Smollett personally and called the attack "outrageous" and "awful."

"He is one of the kindest, most gentle human beings I've ever met," Harris said Tuesday, adding that she's still learning more details about the incident.

Smollett has been active in LBGTQ issues and he released his debut album, "Sum of My Music," last year. A solo show he had set for the Troubadour in West Hollywood on Saturday will go on as scheduled, the Los Angeles Times reported.

That same day, a coalition a groups has organized a rally in support of Smollett, convening at the rainbow crosswalk at the intersection of Santa Monica and San Vicente boulevards in West Hollywood.

"We will be joined by community leaders to reject hate and focus our anger into purpose," a Facebook event page for the protest states.

"Empire" is shot in Chicago and a Fox spokeswoman said the program is currently in production.

Smollet's colleagues and fans have taken to social media to expressed shock, sadness and love for the actor-singer.

Lee Daniels, creator of "Empire"

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We got this @jussiesmollett 🌈👊🏾👊🏾

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Danny Strong, actor/executive producer of "Empire"

Shonda Rhimes

Lena Waithe

John Legend

Kerry Washington

Vivica A. Fox

20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment

"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 strong, 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."

Wilson Cruz

Time's Up

Janet Mock

Mark Duplass

Margaret Cho

Billy Eichner

Loni Love

Zendaya

George Takei

Andy Cohen

Matt Bomer

Kevin Hart

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