ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
In Chicago, the actor Jussie Smollett was assaulted in the early hours of this morning. Chicago police have confirmed that they are treating the attack as a possible hate crime. Smollett is gay and multiracial. He stars in the hit Fox TV drama "Empire." It's about a family that owns a music company, and Smollett plays Jamal, a gay character struggling to win his father's approval. Here he is singing on the show.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "EMPIRE")
JUSSIE SMOLLETT: (As Jamal Lyon, singing) So what? I'm gay. It don't matter. God ain't made you no better than me. When I pray...
SHAPIRO: For more on this attack, NPR's Colin Dwyer joins us now. Hi, Colin.
COLIN DWYER, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.
SHAPIRO: What can you tell us so far about this assault? And what do we know happened?
DWYER: So to start off, I must preface this with the fact that details remain a little bit sketchy at the moment, but we do know some facts from the Chicago Police Department. They say that he was walking down by the waterfront section of downtown Chicago when two individuals assailed him. They started hurling racial epithets at him, started hurling homophobic slurs at him as well. And they gained his attention through that, and they started beating him up.
And at this point, there are some actually disturbing details in the police report. They say that he had an unknown chemical substance poured on him during the course of this thing. And then before that attack was done, the two individuals apparently wrapped a rope around his neck, according to police. Those individuals actually fled on foot. And now the police are trying to find out who they are.
SHAPIRO: You mentioned homophobic and racial slurs. Police are investigating this as a hate crime. Tell us more about that.
DWYER: That's correct. So they obviously see this as a potential situation in which this was either racially motivated or motivated through homophobia or perhaps both it seems. So police are now calling out to the country as a whole asking for tips on who these two people might be. One bright side to this is that it does seem that Smollett is feeling OK. He's in good condition, according to the police. He actually brought himself over to the hospital shortly after this. And he seems to be in good condition.
SHAPIRO: He brought himself to the hospital. He was not taken there by ambulance or anything.
DWYER: That's correct.
SHAPIRO: He's a very popular figure in Hollywood. I've seen a huge response on social media today. Tell us more about what the reaction has been.
DWYER: That's right. So almost immediately the moment that this news broke, we saw an outpouring from his colleagues and co-workers and friends across the industry. That includes Kerry Washington, Viola Davis. The co-creator of the show, Danny Strong, actually came out with some really strong words. He said 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 onto the world for decades to come.
SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Colin Dwyer covering this assault on the actor Jussie Smollett in Chicago. We're going to continue following this story as we get more details. Colin, thanks a lot.
DWYER: Thank you so much, Ari.
(SOUNDBITE OF ROSTAM SONG, "GWAN")