Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) said Thursday that Jussie Smollett has made it more difficult for actual victims of hate crimes to be believed, after prosecutors accused the “Empire” actor of staging a false attack.
Smollett has been charged with felony disorderly conduct after allegedly filing a false police report. He faces up to three years in prison.
Late last month, when Smollett first told Chicago police that he was attacked, Rush sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray asking for a hate crimes investigation into the incident.
On Thursday, the Illinois Democrat said that it is now clear that the attack “was a total and complete lie.”
“I am beyond disappointed and extremely infuriated at Smollett’s brazen, devious, and disgraceful behavior,” Rush said in a statement. “I am outraged that he orchestrated an inflammatory story, which he knew would further divide this nation. He was aware that hate crimes are on the rise and — in an act of self-centered desperation and stupidity — he tried to inject himself into the center of a narrative that is rightfully focused on actual victims.”
Rush praised the Chicago police for their “relentless” investigation of the case and said that Smollett should be held “fully accountable for his disgusting, deplorable, and despicable actions.”
“I hope that Smollett is aware that his stunt has made it harder for real victims to be believed and has caused them to relive their victimization, both from being attacked and from having their stories called into question,” he said.
The collapse of Smollett’s story has put other Democrats — particularly those pursuing 2020 White House bids — in a difficult position.
In a lengthy statement Thursday night, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said she was “sad, frustrated, and disappointed” by the reports about Smollett.
She emphasized that hate crimes are on the rise in the United States and said that “part of the tragedy of this situation is that it distracts from that truth, and has been seized by some who would like to dismiss and downplay the very real problems that we must address.”