Empire star Jussie Smollett was viciously attacked in Chicago early Tuesday in what police are investigating as a possible hate crime. The African-American actor, who is openly gay and plays gay character Jamal Lyon on Empire, was leaving a Subway restaurant around 2am when he was recognized by two white men in ski masks who referred to him using racial and homophobic slurs and referenced his role on the TV show, reports TMZ. The men struck Smollett in the face, poured a chemical (possibly bleach) on him, and put a rope around his neck a la a noose, according to a police report. TMZ reports the men also yelled, "This is MAGA country" before departing.
Smollett was treated at a hospital for injuries including a fractured rib and released, per TMZ. "Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime," reads a police statement, per Entertainment Tonight. Per TMZ and That Grape Juice, the site that first reported the attack, a threatening letter naming Smollett and also appearing to contain a "MAGA" reference was sent to Fox Studios in Chicago a little over a week ago. Smollett only arrived in Chicago on a flight from New York a few hours before the attack. In an Instagram post, the 35-year-old had described "spending 7 hours on a plane for a 2 hour flight." (A man was accused of using his vehicle in a possible hate crime.)