Many prominent Democrats have been silent as the trial of former Empire star Jussie Smollett begins, but that wasn’t always the case.
The actor faces six counts of felony disorderly conduct stemming from charges that he made false statements to police about an alleged hate crime. Smollett claimed that shortly after leaving his Chicago apartment at 2 a.m. to get a snack, two men yelled racist and homophobic slurs, poured bleach on him, and draped a noose around his neck.
Smollett’s story fell apart quickly, following questioning from conservative media and reports that he was evasive with police investigators. The actor paid the two men accused of perpetrating the hoax $3,500, which they claimed was for personal training. However, police asserted that Smollett paid them to stage the attack. (RELATED: Biden’s Nominee For Top Civil Rights Post Hyped The Jussie Smollett Hoax, Criticized Police For Seeking Actor’s Cell Phone)
Before police unraveled the hoax, however, many leading Democrats praised Smollett and designated his alleged assault a “lynching.”
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker used the “attempted modern-day lynching” to push a federal anti-lynching statute.
“To those in Congress who don’t feel the urgency to pass our Anti-Lynching bill designating lynching as a federal hate crime– I urge you to pay attention,” he wrote on Twitter.
The vicious attack on actor Jussie Smollett was an attempted modern-day lynching. I’m glad he’s safe.
To those in Congress who don’t feel the urgency to pass our Anti-Lynching bill designating lynching as a federal hate crime– I urge you to pay attention. https://t.co/EwXFxl5f2m
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) January 29, 2019
Also describing the hoax as an “attempted modern day lynching,” then-California Sen. Kamala Harris declared that “no one should have to fear for their life because of their sexuality or color of their skin.”
.@JussieSmollett is one of the kindest, most gentle human beings I know. I’m praying for his quick recovery.
This was an attempted modern day lynching. No one should have to fear for their life because of their sexuality or color of their skin. We must confront this hate.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) January 29, 2019
After Smollett’s story unraveled, Harris claimed that “part of the tragedy of this situation is that it detracts from” an increase in reported hate crimes, and “has been seized by some who would like to dismiss and downplay the very real problems that we must address.”
Like most of you, I’ve seen the reports about Jussie Smollett, and I’m sad, frustrated, and disappointed. pic.twitter.com/91OHOymShi
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) February 21, 2019
“Homophobia and racism have no place on our streets or in our hearts,” then-candidate Joe Biden declared.
What happened today to @JussieSmollett must never be tolerated in this country. We must stand up and demand that we no longer give this hate safe harbor; that homophobia and racism have no place on our streets or in our hearts. We are with you, Jussie. https://t.co/o8ilPu68CM
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) January 30, 2019
Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez declared the alleged attack “racist and homophobic,” comments echoed by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in a since-deleted tweet.
There is no such thing as “racially charged.”
This attack was not “possibly” homophobic. It was a racist and homophobic attack.
If you don’t like what is happening to our country, then work to change it. It is no one’s job to water down or sugar-coat the rise of hate crimes. https://t.co/QAi0IYtSeR
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 30, 2019
Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib blamed “dangerous lies spewing from the right wing” for “killing and hurting our people.”
“When one of the most famous black and gay men in America is not safe, the message is clearer than it has ever been.” The dangerous lies spewing from the right wing is killing & hurting our people.
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) January 30, 2019
Jury selection began for Smollett’s trial on Monday morning. He faces up to three years in prison if convicted on all charges.