(JTA) — Black Jewish actor Jussie Smollett, best known for his work on the show “Empire,” was hospitalized in Chicago on Tuesday following an assault that is being described by police as a possible hate crime.
Smollett was exiting a restaurant when two men approached him. The Chicago Police Department reported they “gained his attention by yelling out racial and homophobic slurs towards him.” They then proceeded to attack Smollett, pouring an “unknown chemical substance” on him and wrapping a rope around his neck.
The Hollywood Reporter reported later in the day that Smollett said his attackers yelled “MAGA” or “Make America great again” statements during the incident — a reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan.
Smollett was born to a Jewish father and African-American mother. He portrays a gay musician on “Empire” named Jamal Lyon. In 2015, Smollett came out as gay, telling Ellen DeGeneres, “I choose not to talk about my personal life. But there is, without a doubt, no closet that I’ve ever been in.”
In addition to “Empire,” he has appeared in the films “Alien: Covenant” and “Marshall.”
Many users expressed their outrage at the attack on social media.
“This reported attack on Jussie is a disturbing reminder of the terrible homophobia and racism that plagues our society,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “We call on police to investigate this vile incident as a hate crime and work swiftly to bring the alleged perpetrators to justice.”
Jewish comedian Dan Levy, known for his role on the popular sitcom “Schitt’s Creek,” tweeted, “Horrifying, heartbreaking, and deeply disturbing. Combat this hate by donating to a Black/LGBTQ organization today.”
“Empire” co-creator Danny Strong also spoke out, tweeting: “The terror of racism and homophobia has no place in our society, it is the most indecent way to live. Whoever did this, do not forget that you are nothing but hate-filled cowards while Jussie’s talent and activism will continue to shine a bright light on to the world for decades to come.”
Smollett is reportedly in good condition at the hospital. Authorities are asking witnesses to come forward and help the investigation into the attack.