UPDATE: Chicago police said on Feb. 16 that their investigation into Jussie Smollett’s reported attack “shifted” after they received information from two individuals they questioned. Citing anonymous law enforcement sources, CNN reported that police believe the actor may have paid two men to orchestrate the attack. Read more here.
Jussie Smollett broke his silence on Friday morning after he was reportedly the victim of a racist and homophobic assault.
“Let me start by saying that I’m OK,” Smollett told Essence in a Friday statement. “My body is strong but my soul is stronger. More importantly I want to say thank you. The outpouring of love and support from my village has meant more than I will ever be able to truly put into words.”
Smollett also addressed the skepticism about the attack, telling Essence that he has been “100 percent factual and consistent on every level” with authorities.
“Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served,” he said.
Chicago Police said Tuesday that the “Empire” actor told them he was attacked by two unidentified masked men in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Smollett said he was walking to get food around 2 a.m. when the two attackers approached him and began “yelling out racial and homophobic slurs,” according to police.
Smollett told police that the two men beat him up, “poured an unknown chemical substance,” believed to be bleach, on him, and wrapped a rope around his neck. In a follow-up interview with police, Smollett said the men yelled “MAGA country” during the attack, an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s slogan “Make American Great Again.”
Smollett, a gay black man, was admitted to Northwestern Memorial Hospital after the assault, but was in “good condition,” according to police reports.
The “Empire” actor said he will address the specifics of the “horrific incident” soon, but he needed time to process the experience.
“As my family stated, these types of cowardly attacks are happening to my sisters, brothers and non-gender-conforming siblings daily. I am not and should not be looked upon as an isolated incident,” Smollett said.
“We will talk soon and I will address all details of this horrific incident, but I need a moment to process,” he concluded. “Most importantly, during times of trauma, grief and pain, there is still a responsibility to lead with love. It’s all I know. And that can’t be kicked out of me.”
Smollett’s family released a statement in support of the actor and addressed rumors about the truthfulness of the attack.
“We want to be clear, this was a racial and homophobic hate crime,” Smollett’s family said in the Thursday statement. “Jussie has told the police everything from the very beginning. His story has never changed, and we are hopeful they will find these men and bring them to justice.”
Trump briefly commented on the reported attack in a Thursday press conference, telling journalist April Ryan: “That I can tell you is horrible. I’ve seen it. Last night. It’s horrible. Doesn’t get worse.”
“Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime,” Chicago police said in a Tuesday statement to HuffPost. “Detectives are currently working to gather video, identify potential witnesses and establish an investigative timeline.”
The FBI is assisting in the investigation after it was revealed that Smollett received a threatening letter prior to the attack. Chicago police have released images of “persons of interest,” but as of Friday morning had not publicly released any more leads.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story indicated the FBI had taken over the investigation. It is working on the investigation with the Chicago police department.