Jussie Smollett, star of FOX’s Empire, was the target of a homophobic attack in Chicago on early Tuesday morning, according to TMZ.
The 36-year-old actor, who is openly gay, was reportedly approached by two men outside a Subway restaurant around 2:00 a.m. local time. The assailants, described as white men wearing ski masks, asked Smollett if he was “that f***ot Empire n*****?” and proceeded to attack him with a rope and bleach.
TMZ reports that the men broke one of Smollett’s ribs, briefly tied the rope around his neck, and poured bleach on him. As they fled the scene they allegedly yelled, “This is MAGA country!”
Smollett was briefly hospitalized at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial, where he was treated for his injuries and discharged. He is said to be in “good condition.”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Chicago police are investigating the attack as a possible hate crime.
Eight days prior to the attack, FOX Studios in Chicago received a letter addressed to Smollett and containing cut out letters spelling, “You will die black f**”, according to TMZ.
Update: Empire creator Lee Daniels offered his support of Smollett on Instagram, writing, “You didn’t deserve, nor [does] anybody deserve, to have a noose put around your neck, to have bleach thrown on you… You are better than that. We are better than that, America is better than that,” he sad. “It stars at home. We have to love each other regardless of what sexual orientation we are. Because it shows that we are on an united front, and no racist fuck can come in and do the things that they did to you. Hold your head up, Jussie… It’s just another fucking day in America.”