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The family of Jussie Smollett released a statement on Thursday in which they said the actor has been completely honest about an assault that took place this week — and that the attack amounted to “domestic terrorism.”
“We want to be clear, this was a racial and homophobic hate crime,” reads the Smollett statement.
The Empire star was hospitalized after he said two men jumped him in Chicago during the early morning hours on Tuesday, first yelling racial and homophobic slurs before beating him, then pouring an unknown chemical substance over him, police said.
At some point during the attack, one of the suspects wrapped a rope around Smollett’s neck. Police are investigating the matter as a possible hate crime.
The suspects were described by police to The Hollywood Reporter as two males wearing black clothing. One offender was wearing a black mask. There were no other identifying characteristics.
Police also confirmed to THR that Smollett told them his attackers yelled pro-Trump comments during the attack, such as “This is MAGA country!” Those comments were not mentioned in the initial report but were added to a supplemental report after another interview with Smollett, police said.
Some on social media have tried to cast doubt on Smollett’s report. His family pushed back. “Jussie has told the police everything from the very beginning,” the family said in a statement. “His story has never changed, and we are hopeful they will find these men and bring them to justice.”
The statement added, “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. 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 Smollett statement concluded, “Radical love is the only solution, but passivity will be our downfall. We, as a family, will continue to work for love, equity and justice until it reigns supreme in our nation and all over the world.”
The incident has made national headlines over the past several days. When asked about the assault on Thursday by reporters, Donald Trump said, “That I can tell you is horrible. It doesn’t get worse.” Police on Wednesday released stills from surveillance video of two individuals who may be persons of interest in the attack.
On the Fox drama Empire, Smollett plays musician Jamal Lyon, the son of Lucious (Terrence Howard) and Cookie (Taraji P. Henson). The character is gay.
Smollett told Ellen DeGeneres in 2015 that he self-identifies as gay but chooses to keep his personal life out of the public eye. He explained, “There is no closet, there’s never been a closet that I’ve been in.”
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