BREAKING: In his first public appearance since an allegedly racial and homophobic assault earlier this week, Jussie Smollett was defiant and declarative tonight onstage.
“The most important thing that I can say is to keep it simple and say thank you and I’m OK,” the Empire actor said to massive cheers at a totally packed Troubadour tonight. “I’m not fully healed yet, but I’m going to and I’m going to stand strong with you all,” Smollett added to a club that included Empire co-creator Lee Daniels, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, producer and Get Lifted Film Co. partner Mike Jackson and members of the Smollett family.
“I had to be here tonight,” the singer asserted to more cries of support from the audience soon after taking the stage in the legendary West Hollywood venue. “I couldn’t let those motherfuckers win!”
“So, I will always stand for love, I will never stand for anything other than that,” a clearly moved Smollett vowed as he also made sure everyone knew “he fought the fuck back” against his assailants.
“Regardless of what anyone else says, I will only stand for love and I hope you will all stand with me.”
The roars from the crowd indicated that the Troubadour certainly intended to stand with Smollett, who has laid relatively low since the attack in the early hours of Tuesday in the Windy City.
The man who plays openly gay Jamal Lyon on the Fox drama had just returned on January 29 from New York to Chicago where the fifth season of Empire is shot. He supposedly on the street near his apartment at around 2 AM when two men began bellowing derogatory slurs toward him. The two then attacked Smollett, hitting him over and over and pouring an unknown chemical substance over him that is now said to have been bleach. The attackers reportedly also put a rope around Smollett’s neck before fleeing the scene.
After reporting the incident to police and conducting an initial interview with them, Smollett drove to Northwestern Hospital to be seen by doctors but he was not hospitalized. Bruised, the performer returned home under increased security later that morning and was said to be in good condition, police said.
Chicago police announced very quickly on January 29 that they are treating the matter as a “possible hate crime.” On January 31, one day after local law enforcement released photos of “persons of interest” in the matter, Chicago PD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi called the incident an “assault and battery case.”
Following the attack on January 29, Empire co-creators Daniels and Danny Strong condemned what had happened to Smollett, as did network Fox. Donald Trump called the assault “horrible” when asked in the White House about it on January 31.
The same day, Smollett’s family said it was an act of “domestic terrorism.” In his own statement, Smollett himself said on February 1 that he was “working with authorities and have been 100% factual and consistent on every level.” The actor added that “despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served.”
The investigation by Chicago PD with help from the FBI and others continues.