The significant statement (read it in full below) released on the beginning of Black History Month is the first time Smollett has publicly spoken out on the incident, which occurred on the chilly streets of the Windy City in the early hours of Tuesday.
Having put out video surveillance images of what they call “people of interest” in the violent attack on Smollett by two as yet-unidentified individuals, local law enforcement tells Deadline they are going through responses and tips from the public. “We have received a lot of information from citizens based on the photos and are focusing resources on the most serious ones,” an individual involved with the FBI-assisted case says.
Smollett had just returned from New York to Chicao where the Fox drama is shot, and was 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. They 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 himself to Northwestern Hospital. He returned to his home under increased security later Tuesday and was said to be in good condition, police said.
Chicago police announced very quickly Tuesday that they are treating the matter as a “possible hate crime.” Yesterday, Chicago PD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi called the incident an “assault and battery case.”
There have been reports that the attackers were either wearing Donald Trump-inspired red “Make America Great Again” caps ,or during the assault screaming “this is MAGA country” at the actor, who plays the openly gay Jamal Lyon on Empire. Smollett’s music manager Brandon Z. Moore has said he heard the attackers’ comments while on the phone with the performer during at least a portion of the attack. There have also been claims Smollett’s version of events have changed in the hours and days since he initially spoke to police. We hear, as Smollett notes in his statement today, that it not the case.
Also, Chicago police and other law-enforcement agencies investigating the matter have not confirmed any MAGA-related reports. Other sources close to events say that the apparently male attackers were not wearing hats with the Trump slogan on them, and Smollett has never said they were.
On Thursday, Trump himself called the assault “horrible” when asked about it by White House reporters.
Depending on his recovery and weather conditions, Smollett could be back filming Empire by early next week. The performer is still scheduled to play a concert at the Troubadour in West Hollywood on Saturday.
Here’s Smollett’s statement:
Let me start by saying that I’m ok. My body is strong but my soul is stronger. More importantly I want to say thank you. The outpouring of love and support from my village has meant more than I will ever be able to truly put into words. I am working with authorities and have been 100% factual and consistent on every level. Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served. 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. 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.
With Love, respect & honor…