Jussie Smollett’s family said Thursday that the attack on the black and gay Empire actor in Chicago this week was a “hate crime” and they rejected any suggestion that he was anything but honest with the police.
Smollett, who plays the gay character Jamal Lyon on the hit Fox television show, has not spoken publicly about the early Tuesday attack, although his representative said Wednesday that Smollett was recovering at home.
Smollett’s family issued a statement through a spokesman on Thursday saying they believed he was the victim of an unprovoked “racial and homophobic hate crime” and that he has been forthright with the police, who were still searching for surveillance video of the attack.
“Jussie has told the police everything from the very beginning.
“His story has never changed, and we are hopeful they will find these men and bring them to justice,” the family said.
They thanked the public “for their prayers” and said the family was “so grateful that God saw him through this cowardly attack alive”.
“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,” the family said.
Now in its fifth season, Empire is shot in Chicago and follows an African-American family navigating the ups and downs of the record industry.
Smollett has told police that he was walking home from a Subway restaurant when the attack happened.
Detectives have recovered more surveillance footage of his walk home, including video of him arriving at his apartment building with a rope around his neck, said police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.
Smollett told police that two masked men jumped him on his walk home at about 2am Tuesday.
He said they punched him, subjected him to racist and homophobic insults, threw an “unknown chemical substance” on him and put a thin rope around his neck before fleeing.
Smollett’s manager called police about 40 minutes after Smollett got home, Guglielmi said.
When officers arrived, the actor had cuts and scrapes on his face and the rope around his neck. Smollett later went to a hospital for treatment.
Detectives, who are investigating the case as a possible hate crime, have watched hundreds of hours of footage from private and public surveillance cameras, but gaps remain and they still have not seen video of the attack or men who match Smollett’s description of his assailants, Guglielmi said.
Guglielmi said Smollett and his manager told detectives they were talking on the phone at the time of the attack, but that the 36-year-old actor declined to turn over his phone records to detectives.
Reports of the attack drew a flood of outrage and support for Smollett on social media.
Some of the outrage stemmed from Smollett’s account to detectives that his attackers yelled that he was in “MAGA country,” an apparent reference to the Donald Trump campaign’s Make America Great Again slogan that some critics of the president have decried as racist and discriminatory.
President Donald Trump, expressed sympathy for Smollett on Thursday.
“That I can tell you is horrible. It doesn’t get worse,” the president told reporters.
The spot where Smollett says he was attacked is not far from the Trump International Hotel and Tower.