Two Trump-supporting attackers allegedly shouted “This is MAGA country” during an attack on actor Jussie Smollett, leading to a backlash online among those who blame the president’s incendiary rhetoric as a factor in the racist and homophobic attack.
The Empire actor was allegedly beaten by two people who yelled racist and homophobic slurs while pouring an unknown substance on Smollett, CNN reported. The attackers allegedly put a noose around his neck before fleeting the scene, and Smollett brought himself to a nearby hospital.
A report from TMZ claimed that the men also made reference to Donald Trump, shouting a reference to the “Make America Great Again” slogan as they put the noose around his neck.
The report has led to a sharp backlash against Trump, who has been blamed for increasing tension through a series of statements and actions seen by critics as racist. This includes sharing a fake “black crime” graphic during the 2016 campaign, per the Inquisitr, that used fabricated statistics to make it look as if blacks were responsible for nearly all violent crime against white people. The graphic itself was traced back to an openly neo-Nazi blogger. Trump also initially refused to repudiate the white supremacists responsible for violence at the 2017 protests in Charlottesville.
Others took aim at actions Donald Trump had taken to roll back the rights of LGBTQ people, including a ban on transgender persons serving in the U.S. military.
In the wake of the attack on Jussie Smollett, many took to Twitter to push blame on Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric for fostering an atmosphere where the attack could take place. Some noted a rise in violence among the far-right, including a man accused of mailing bombs to political and media figures who had been frequent targets of criticism from Trump.
Others said that the attack was reflective of the rise in crimes both against minorities and LGBTQ individuals during Trump’s presidency.
— Jon Cooper (@joncoopertweets) January 29, 2019
Horrific. Reflective of the surge in racist & homophobic hate crimes since the election of Donald Trump, & emboldening of supremacists.
‘Empire’ Star Jussie Smollett Assaulted in Chicago in Suspected Hate Crime https://t.co/tJpbUIV90m
— Michelangelo Signorile (@MSignorile) January 29, 2019
There was some dispute about whether the attackers expressed support for Donald Trump during the beating. While the TMZ report claimed that the two attackers made reference to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan during the beating, the Daily Beast cited sources within the Chicago Police Department that claimed they had no report of those words being said. It was not clear if TMZ had obtained the detail from reporting outside of the official police report, which did not specifically cite the phrase being used.