Donald Trump has at least something to say about the attack on Empire star Jussie Smollett.
At a press conference Thursday, the president was asked to comment about the reportedly racist and homophobic Jan. 29 assault on the actor, which Chicago police are investigating as a “possible hate crime.”
“That I can tell you is horrible,” Trump said. “I’ve seen it. Last night. It’s horrible. Doesn’t get worse.”
The president did not address that the actor’s attackers allegedly yelled during the attack “this is MAGA country,” a reference to Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan.
Following his brief comments on Smollett, he then segued into a discussion of immigration from Mexico, which he dubbed “the worst thing of all,” and a renewed call for a border wall.
Reports about the attack have generated an outpouring of sympathy for the actor and outrage over the incident. Smollett checked himself into a hospital early Tuesday but has since been released and is scheduled to perform in Los Angeles this weekend. Fox’s Empire has temporarily suspended production, but that’s due to the Midwest’s extreme cold.
Meanwhile, Chicago Police have released video surveillance images of shadowy figures they call “people of interest” in the case. The duo was reportedly on the same street as Smollett when the incident occurred. Various footage collected by police have shown the actor walking home without showing an assault, but there are also still gaps in the footage.
While the “MAGA country” yell wasn’t initially part of the actor’s statement to police, Smollett’s manager Brandon Z. Moore told Variety he was on the phone with the actor and heard some of the attack — including the words “MAGA country.” “I heard that clearly. I heard the scuffle and I heard the racial slur,” Moore said. Smollett later confirmed the taunt as well.
Chicago Police have confirmed a video shows Smollett walking across the street from the two possible persons of interest. According to Chicago’s ABC7, the actor walked out of the camera’s frame for roughly a minute then reappeared on another camera “wearing a rope like a necktie.” The actor then returned to his apartment and soon after the police were called.