Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said she’s disappointed with Jussie Smollett after Chicago police accused the “Empire” actor of staging a homophobic and racist attack that captured national attention.
“Like most of you, I’ve seen the reports about Jussie Smollett, and I’m sad, frustrated, and disappointed,” Harris, a 2020 presidential candidate, said in a statement Thursday.
Smollett, who plays Jamal Lyon on Fox’s “Empire,” was charged with a felony on Thursday for filing what Chicago police said was a false report last month. The actor claimed he had been attacked by two masked men who were yelling racial and homophobic slurs in the early hours of Jan. 29.
Police said they discovered that Smollett enlisted two Nigerian brothers, one of whom is his personal trainer, to stage the assault. Smollett wanted to boost his public profile because he was “dissatisfied with his salary,” police said.
“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,” said Harris, a former prosecutor.
Harris wrote that hate crimes are on the rise in the U.S., and said Smollett’s story “distracts from that truth.”
“We must always confront hate directly, and we must always seek justice,” she wrote. “That is what I will keep fighting for.”
Harris, along with other politicians and actors, condemned the attack when it was first reported.
Smollett surrendered himself to police on Thursday morning. He was later released on $100,000 bond.
His attorneys said in a statement Thursday evening that Smollett is innocent and is being targeted by law enforcement.
“Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing,” the defense statement said.