‘This is MAGA country’: Empire's Jussie Smollett Attacked in Brutal Hate Crime

January 29, 2019
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By Erin Thibeau

"Empire" star Jussie Smollett was attacked by two masked men in Chicago on Tuesday in a vicious hate crime that sent him to the hospital.  

The 36-year-old actor, who is black and gay, told police he was walking downtown near the Chicago River at around 2 a.m. when he heard someone yell, "Aren't you that f***ot 'Empire' n*****?" Smollett said two men wearing ski masks attacked him, put a rope around his neck, poured bleach on him, and yelled "This is MAGA country" as they walked away. Sources confirmed his account to TMZ.

Smollett transported himself to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where he was treated for a fractured rib. He left the hospital later Tuesday morning and is in good condition, said the Chicago Police Department, which is investigating the case "as a possible hate crime."

Detectives reviewed footage from privately-owned cameras, traffic cameras and public bus cameras. CPD released photos of people of interest as they review more cameras.

20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment commented on the incident in a statement: 

"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 statement read. "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."

Sources told outlet The Grape Juice that before the attack, Smollett received a letter with cut-out letters spelling "You will die black f*g." This has not yet been confirmed.

In a statement, GLAAD said it reached out to Fox and Jussie Smollett's team to offer help. "Jussie is a true champion for LGBTQ people and is beloved by the community and allies around the world," GLAAD said.

Smollett has played the gay character Jamal Lyon on the hit Fox series since 2015. "Empire" is shot in Chicago and is currently in production.

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