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“That I can tell you is horrible. It doesn’t get worse,” the president said when asked by journalist April Ryan about the assault that took place earlier in the week in Chicago, according to the White House pool report.
Smollett was hospitalized after he said two men jumped him in the early morning hours of Monday, first 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.
“Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime,” police said in a statement.
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-“Make America Great Again” (MAGA) comments during the attack, such a “MAGA country!” Those comments were not mentioned in the initial report, but were added to a supplemental report after another interview with detectives, police said.
Neither Smollett nor his reps have yet to release a statement on the attack. Police on Wednesday released stills from surveillance video of two individuals who may be persons of interest in the attack.
Smollett plays musician Jamal Lyon, the son of Lucious (Terrence Howard) and Cookie (Taraji P. Henson), on the Fox drama Empire. The character is gay.
The actor 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.”
There has been an outpouring of support for Smollett as well as swift condemnation from a number of social and civil rights groups about the attack.
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