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Jussie Smollett has spoken out for the first time since he was the victim of a homophobic and racist attack earlier this week.
The Empire actor was beaten by two men on Tuesday in Chicago. According to police, the attackers first yelled racial and homophobic slurs before they beat him and poured an unknown chemical substance over him. One of the attackers wrapped a rope around Smollett’s neck. The attack led to Smollett’s hospitalization.
“Let me start by saying that I’m OK,” Smollett said in a statement to Essence on Friday. “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.”
Police confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that Smollett told them his attackers yelled pro-Trump comments during the attack, including “This is MAGA country!” Those comments were not mentioned in the initial report, though were added to a supplemental report after another interview with Smollett.
He also addressed the claims on social media that he has changed his story and details about the incident. “I am working with authorities and have been 100 percent factual and consistent on every level. 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.
“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. We will talk soon and I will address all details of this horrific incident, but I need a moment to process,” he continued in the statement. “Most importantly, during times of trauma, grief, pain, there is still a responsibility to lead with love. It’s all I know. And that can’t be kicked out of me.”
The statement concluded with Smollett’s signing, “With Love, respect & honor…Jussie.”
The Smollett family was quick to defend him following the criticism on social media. “Jussie has told the police everything from the very beginning,” the family said in a statement on Thursday. “His story has never changed, and we are hopeful they will find these men and bring them to justice.”
“Jussie is a warrior whose light cannot be dimmed. We want people to understand these targeted hate crimes are happening to our sisters, brothers and our gender non-conforming siblings, many who reside within the intersection of multiple identities, on a monthly, weekly, and sometimes even daily basis all across our country,” the family added in the statement. “Oftentimes ending fatally, these are inhumane acts of domestic terrorism and they should be treated as such. They will continue to occur until we hold each other accountable. Make no mistake, words matter. Hateful words lead to hateful actions.”
The incident made national headlines. On Thursday, Donald Trump was asked about the assault by journalist April Ryan. “That I can tell you is horrible. It doesn’t get worse,” he said.
The police described the suspects to THR as two males wearing black clothing, while one offender was wearing a black mask. On Wednesday, police released stills from a surveillance video of two individuals who may be persons of interest in the attack.
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