On Friday, Jussie Smollett, an African American and openly gay actor best known for his role in "Empire," broke his silence about a horrific attack on him in Chicago Tuesday that reportedly included the assaulters hurling "racial and homophobic slurs," pouring a "chemical substance" on him, and putting a rope around his neck.
Reports on the attack have generated controversy due to conflicts about details of the assault and the ongoing investigation. Some early reports indicated that the assaulters yelled, "This is MAGA country," though the Chicago Police issued a statement saying they had "no record" of such a claim. Some on social media have also suggested that Smollett has altered his story, a claim Smollett shot down assertively in his statement Friday.
"I am working with authorities and have been 100% factual and consistent on every level," the actor said in a statement to Essence Friday. "Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served."
Choosing not to go into detail about what has been misrepresented, the actor moved on to the nature of the attack, which he described as part of a wider pattern.
"As my family stated, these types of cowardly attacks are happening to my sisters, brothers and non-gender conforming siblings daily," he said. "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. Most importantly, during times of trauma, grief and pain, there is still a responsibility to lead with love. It’s all I know. And that can’t be kicked out of me."
He concluded his statement by writing, "With Love, respect & honor…Jussie."
The Boston Globe provides some more details on the shocking attack:
Smollett, 35, was walking on the 300th block of E. North Lower Water Street around 2 a.m. local time on Tuesday, "when two unknown offenders approached him and gained his attention by yelling out racial and homophobic slurs towards him," the Chicago Police Department said in a statement to The Washington Post. ‘"The offenders began to batter the victim with their hands about the face and poured an unknown chemical substance on the victim."
The police could not confirm the gender of the offenders nor identify the chemical substance.
The Chicago Police Department is investigating the attack as possibly motivated by racism and homophobia, and perhaps even premeditated; Smollett reportedly received a letter on January 18 stating, "You will die black f*g."
Smollett's family has also issued a statement on Instagram (formatting adjusted):
Because there’s a light in him that cannot be dimmed, because we are a family of joyful warriors, we will not let this get the best of us. Although this is a picture from happier times, this is the spirit to which we chose to move forward...they will not steal, our joy.
Statement from our family: “ In the early hours of Tuesday morning, our beloved son and brother, Jussie, was the victim of a violent and unprovoked attack. We want to be clear, this was a racial and homophobic hate crime. Jussie has told the police everything from the very beginning. His story has never changed, and we are hopeful they will find these men and bring them to justice. Our family thanks everyone for their prayers and the huge amount of love he has received. We are thankful to our village for your immense support during this trying time. We are so grateful that God saw him through this cowardly attack alive. 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. 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.
With love & gratitude, The Smollett Family"