Celebrities rally around Jussie Smollett following suspected hate crime
Celebrities have rallied around Empire star Jussie Smollett after he was attacked in what police suspect was a hate crime.
The 35-year-old actor, who is black and came out as gay in 2015, was approached by two men in downtown Chicago at about 2am on Tuesday, police said.
He was struck in the face before having an “unknown chemical substance” poured over him and a rope wrapped around his neck, according to investigators.
The suspects shouted racial and homophobic slurs during the attack, police said. No arrests have been made.
Police also confirmed Smollett told them his attackers made reference to MAGA – Make America Great Again – which was Donald Trump’s slogan during the 2016 US presidential campaign.
Smollett has starred on Fox’s musical drama Empire since 2015. He plays Jamal, the gay son of a music mogul.
Smollett took himself to Chicago’s Northwestern Hospital and “is in good condition”, police said.
Following the attack, Ariana Grande was among the celebrities to offer support.
Grande said the incident left her “sick to my stomach” and sent, “all of the healing energy / love i possibly can and hoping for change”.
Grande added: “What can we do ? tell me & i’m there.”
Actress Olivia Munn wrote on Twitter the attack was, “why we have to have zero tolerance against homophobia and racism. Jussie’s life matters”.
Alyssa Milano said she was struggling to put her feelings into a “neat & tidy tweet”, adding, “Living together on the planet shouldn’t be this difficult”.
Michael B Jordan wrote on Instagram: “Stand with my brother @jussiesmollett sending you light and love. Be strong We got you.”
Queer Eye host Jonathan Van Ness said “queer people are attacked every single day”, adding: “We have not come as far as we think.”
Kevin Hart, who stepped down from his role as Oscars host after historical homophobic tweets surfaced, also sent Smollett a message of support.
He wrote on Instagram: “Why are we going backwards….this is disgusting. We as people have to do better.”
US president Trump is yet to comment, despite pressure to do so. Earlier Empire creator Lee Daniels reacted to the attack and said “America is better than that”.
In an emotional video to Instagram, Daniels called Smollett his “son”, before calling for change.
He said: “It starts at home. We have to love each other regardless of what sexual orientation we are.”
As well as his acting, Smollett is also a singer and activist who has advocated HIV/Aids prevention.