Vice President Kamala Harris was one of the first politicians to react to actor Jussie Smollet’s claims of being attacked in Jan. 2019.
Smollett is set to stand trial this week on charges he staged being a victim of a racist and homophobic attack.
Harris, then a California senator, praised Smollet as “one of the kindest, most gentle human beings I know.” She said she was praying for his quick recovery.
“This was an attempted modern day lynching,” Harris said. “No one should have to fear for their life because of their sexuality or color of their skin.”
She added: “We must contront this hate.”
Smollett originally told police two masked men attacked him at 2 a.m. in Chicago, made racist and homophobic insults, threw chemicals on him, looped a noose around his neck, and told him he was in “MAGA country.”
Police alleged weeks later that Smollett paid two friends to help stage the attack because he was unhappy with his salary on the TV show “Empire.” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson said in late February 2019 that Smollett “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”
Then 20-some days later, Harris changed course.
“Like most of you,” she said, “I’ve seen the reports about Jussie Smollett, and I’m sad, frustrated, and disappointed.”
“When anyone makes false claims to police, it not only diverts resources away from serious investigations but it makes it more difficult for other victims of crime to come forward,” Harris wrote in a statement. “At the same time, we must speak the truth: hate crimes are on the rise in America.”
She said the hoax should not be used to distract from the real problems of racism in America.
“I will always condemn racism and homophobia,” Harris said. “We must always confront hate directly, and we must always seek justice. That is what I will keep fighting for.”
Comedian Dave Chappelle joked about Smollett’s incident in his Netflix special, “Sticks & Stones.”
WATCH THE CLIP BELOW (WARNING: LANGUAGE):