Politics

FLASHBACK: Top Democrats Called Jussie Smollett Hate Crime Hoax A ‘Lynching’

Win McNamee/Getty Images) (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Michael Ginsberg Congressional Reporter
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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.

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.”

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.”

“Homophobia and racism have no place on our streets or in our hearts,” then-candidate Joe Biden declared.

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.

Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib blamed “dangerous lies spewing from the right wing” for “killing and hurting our people.”

Jury selection began for Smollett’s trial on Monday morning. He faces up to three years in prison if convicted on all charges.