Kamala Harris has issued a statement blasting Jussie Smollett for his allegedly faked attack, with the California senator saying she is “sad, frustrated, and disappointed” in the allegations that the Empire actor concocted the hoax.
Harris had been one of the most vocal backers of Smollett when he first claimed he was attacked by two men shouting racist language. The 2020 presidential hopeful called the attack a “modern day lynching” and referenced the alleged attack when she pushed a new bill that would make lynching a federal offense.
As doubts began to rise around Smollett’s account of the attack, many called on Harris to issue a statement. She did that on Thursday, posting a statement on Twitter in which she appeared to blast the actor. Harris said that false claims to police divert resources from more serious investigations and make it more difficult for other victims of crimes to come forward.
The statement came as many right-leaning news outlets and media figures had ramped up criticism of Kamala Harris for her initial support of Jussie Smollett. The National Review this week noted that she had been ducking questions about Smollett.
“Asked earlier this week about the tweet in which she said Smollett was effectively lynched, Harris seemed unfamiliar with the message and said she could not comment on the case until all the details came to light,” the report noted.
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
Police in Chicago now say they believe Jussie Smollett orchestrated the late January attack, paying two friends $3,500 with a personal check to take part in the attack. As ABC 7 Chicago reported, he surrendered to authorities on Thursday on one felony count of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report. A judge set bail at $100,000, and he was able to post bond and was released from custody on Thursday afternoon.
Jussie Smollett did not speak to reporters as he left the court, the report noted, but his lawyers had previously said that they planned to mount an aggressive defense. The actor could still face more trouble ahead, as he reportedly faces a separate federal investigation into whether he also faked a threatening letter that has been sent to him. Mail fraud is a federal offense that carries larger prison terms, with up to five years or more if convicted.
Kamala Harris has entered the race for the Democratic nomination in 2020 and has been polling near the top in early polls. Jussie Smollett had been a vocal supporter, even appearing with Harris at events.