Don Lemon

Jussie Smollett at the Children's Defense Fund's 27th Annual Beat the Odds ceremony in Los Angeles in 2017.
Image: Michael Buckner/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Empire actor Jussie Smollett has spoken out about the violent attack he suffered in Chicago on Tuesday. 

“Let me start by saying that I’m OK,” Smollett said in an exclusive statement to Essence. “My body is strong but my soul is stronger.”

Smollett was hospitalized on Tuesday following an alleged assault by men who reportedly called him racist and homophobic slurs and attempted to put a noose around his neck (he also told police that one of them shouted, “This is MAGA country!” per THR). 

In the days that followed, celebrities and fans expressed their support for him and his family and insisted on justice for what the police are investigating as a hate crime.

“More importantly I want to say thank you,” Smollett’s statement continued. “The outpouring of love and support from my village has meant more than I will ever be able to truly put into words.”

On Thursday, Smollett’s family released a statement condemning the attack as domestic terrorism and cautioning against the power of hateful rhetoric.

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.

Smollett reiterated in his statement that he is working with the authorities to bring his attackers to justice, which he believes is possible even with “frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread.”

On Empire, Smollett plays Jamal, the middle son of Lucious (Terrence Howard) and Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) who faces adversity for being a gay singer in the rap community. Smollett himself is a vocal activist in the LGBTQ+ community.

“As my family stated, these types of cowardly attacks are happening to my sisters, brothers and non-gender conforming siblings daily. 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,” he concluded. “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.”

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