"It's taken me a minute to come to social media about this because Jussie, you are my son," Daniels said in the video, before addressing specific details of the attack on Smollett, which occurred Tuesday morning and left the Empire actor, who is gay, hospitalized. "You didn't deserve, nor anybody deserves, to have a noose put around your neck, to have bleach thrown on you, to be called, 'die f-----, n-----, ' or whatever they said to you. You are better than that. We are better than that. America is better than that. It starts at home. It starts at home, yo. We have to love each other, regardless of what sexual orientation we are. Because it shows we are a united front. And no racist f--k can come in and do the things they did to you. Hold your head up, Jussie. I'm with you, I'll be there in a minute. It's just another f--king day in America."
Lee Daniels is breaking his silence about the racist and homophobic attack on Jussie Smollett: "You are better than that. We are better than that. America is better than that." pic.twitter.com/Z4IwhOEO5L— Entertainment Tonight (@etnow) January 29, 2019
TMZ first reported the news about Smollett's assault and the Chicago Police later released a statement confirming a cast member on the Fox drama was beaten and hospitalized. (Chicago police did not mention Smollett by name.)
According to the police statement, two men approached the 36-year-old and "gained his attention by yelling out racial and homophobic slurs toward him." Per the police, the two men beat Smollett, poured an "unknown chemical substance" on him (bleach, according to TMZ) and "wrapped a rope around the victim's neck."
The men, both of whom wore ski masks to cover their faces, allegedly shouted, "This is MAGA country," a reference to President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again." Police have not confirmed those specific details and a Chicago Police spokesperson told The Daily Beast there was "no report" of MAGA taunts from the attackers.
Representatives for the Chicago police department did not respond to requests for comment.
Statement on #ChicagoPolice hate crime investigation. We are taking these allegations very seriously and encourage anyone with information to report anonymously to https://t.co/yYAqzcVIfu pic.twitter.com/DxipALHXaz— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) January 29, 2019
The incident occurred at 2 a.m. as the actor was getting food from a Subway sandwich location after arriving to Chicago from New York. The actor reportedly suffered a fractured rib and was transported to Northwestern Memorial for treatment before being released Tuesday morning. The assault follows the arrival of a threatening letter reportedly sent to Fox's Chicago studios last week which was addressed to Smollett and contained a threat to his life along with similar hateful slurs. Entertainment Tonight reports that as a result of the attack, Smollett and the rest of the Empire cast will have armed security as the production of the show continues.
In a statement posted to Twitter, the Chicago Police Department revealed that it is investigating the incident as a potential hate crime.
Chicago Police Department just sent out this statement re:— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) January 29, 2019
Jussie Smollett pic.twitter.com/DxQswZn8xd
In addition to Daniels, fellow Empire co-creator and executive producer Danny Strong reacted to the news on Twitter, writing that he was "deeply horrified and saddened" by the attack and calling Smollett's assailants "hate-filled cowards."
I'm deeply horrified and saddened by the racist and homophobic attacks against @JussieSmollett. He is a kind and profoundly talented soul whom I respect with all my heart. The terror of racism and homophobia has no place in our society, it is the most indecent way to live...— Danny Strong (@Dannystrong) January 29, 2019
...whoever did this, do not forget that you are nothing but hate filled cowards while Jussie's talent and activism will continue to shine a bright light on to the world for decades to come.— Danny Strong (@Dannystrong) January 29, 2019
Twentieth Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment, the studio behind Empire, reacted to the attack with the following statement, shared with TV Guide: "We are deeply saddened and outraged to learn that a member of our Empire family, Jussie Smollett, was viciously attacked last night. We send our love to Jussie, who is resilient and strong, and we will work with law enforcement to bring these perpetrators to justice. The entire studio, network and production stand united in the face of any despicable act of violence and hate — and especially against one of our own."
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) said that they have reached out to Fox to and the actor's reps to offer the organization's support, adding, "Jussie is a true champion for LGBTQ people and is beloved by the community and allies around the world."
This story has been updated to include comments by Daniels, Strong, Fox and GLAAD.