Celebrities and advocacy groups on Tuesday offered an outpouring of support for “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, who was hospitalized that morning for injuries from what police have called a possible hate crime in Chicago.
According to Chicago police, Smollett told them two men yelled racist and homophobic slurs at him before beating him and pouring “an unknown chemical substance” on him. One of the men reportedly put a rope around Smollett’s neck.
Police referred to the incident as a “possible racially-charged assault and battery” and are investigating it as “a possible hate crime.”
20th Century Fox Television, the network which airs “Empire,” condemned the “despicable act of violence and hate,” and called Smollett “resilient and strong.”
“We are deeply saddened and outraged to learn that a member of our EMPIRE family, Jussie Smollett, was viciously attacked last night,” the network said in a statement. “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.”
Several of Smollett’s colleagues on the show offered words of sympathy and support on Twitter, including guest star Vivica A. Fox.
“Empire” co-creator Lee Daniels addressed Smollett directly in an emotional Instagram video.
“Jussie, you are my son,” Daniels said. “You didn’t deserve, nor anybody deserves, to have a noose put around your neck, to have bleach thrown on you, or to be called ‘Die, faggot, nigger,’ or whatever they said to you. You are better than that. We are better than that. America is better than that. It starts at home, yo. We have to love each other regardless of what sexual orientation we are, because it shows that we are united on [a] united front. And no racist fuck can come in and do the things that they did to you. Hold your head up, Jussie.”
Co-creator Danny Strong called Smollett “a kind and profoundly talented soul,” and called the perpetrators “nothing but hate filled cowards.”
“Empire” writer and director Eric Haywood tweeted: “I will burn your fucking house down to protect [Smollett]. Write that shit down.”
Smollett, who plays the openly gay character Jamal Lyon on the show, came out as gay in 2015 on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
“Jussie is a true champion for LGBTQ people and is beloved by the community and allies around the world,” GLAAD, the LGBTQ advocacy organization, said in a statement.
Other celebrities expressed their anger about the reported assault and offered Smollett and his family support.
This story has been updated with a statement from 20th Century Fox and Lee Daniels’ response.