Jussie Smollett, the star of Empire, was reportedly beaten and left with rope around his neck in a racist, homophobic hate attack in Chicago overnight.
Smollett was set upon by two men in ski masks who abused him with slurs including “n***er” and “faggot”, and who then allegedly poured bleach over him and wrapped rope around his neck, initially reported by TMZ.
Chicago Police initially denied reports that the assailants used the phrase “MAGA country” but Smollett later confirmed that they had made these comments during the attack.
“Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime,” police said.
US Senator Cory Booker described the assault as “an attempted modern-day lynching”.
The FBI is also now assisting with the investigation into the attack following reports that threatening hate mail had been sent to a Fox studio in Chicago addressed to Smollett.
The envelope containing the message, which was spelled out in cut-out magazine letters, was received last week and contained a powdery substance investigators believe to have been over-the-counter pain relief medication Tylenol.
Just three days ago, Smollett tweeted that “frauds are everywhere” and to remember that “salt, cocaine and anthrax can all appear to be sugar…just be careful out here fam. Happy Sunday. Love you. Real talk. Love on.”
Smollett, who came out on The Ellen Show in 2015, received an outpouring of support on social media.
Laverne Cox tweeted, “Your spirit is strong. Your resilience is hardwired. My brother you are fortified in healing energy from most high that is already seeing you through.”
Poet Jericho Brown said, “Of course, I wish we had a better understanding of how often things like this are happening to people who ain’t as famous. Good to be reminded our celebrity won’t save us.”
“He better be okay,” tweeted Moonlight writer Tarell Alvin McCraney. “We never safe.”
“You didn’t deserve, nor anybody deserve, to have a noose put around your neck, to have bleach thrown on you,” said Empire‘s co-creator and producer Lee Daniels in a video shared on social media.
Smollett’s character on Empire is also gay.
“You are better than that, we are better than that, America is better than that,” Daniels said.