White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday warned falsifying hate crimes hurts real victims of those incidents after actor Jussie Smollett was found guilty of lying to Chicago police about a robbery and hate crime he had staged against himself in 2019.
Psaki was asked about what lessons can be learned from the Smollett case given President Biden and Vice President Harris were among the Democratic presidential candidates who spoke out in support of Smollett at the time and condemned the reported attack.
Psaki noted then-President Trump similarly called the alleged attack against Smollett “horrible” at the time before later mocking and condemning the former “Empire” star once more was known about the incident.
“I would say that we respect the jury’s decision. Lying to the police, particularly about something as heinous as a hate crime is shameful. Instances of that need to be investigated fully and those found guilty need to be punished,” Psaki said.
“False accusations divert valuable police resources away from important investigations. They make it harder for real victims to come forward and be believed. If you look back at the time, it’s also true and important to note that accusations of hate crimes should be taken seriously and they need to be investigated.
“Certainly knowing what we know now it’s important to also note the danger of lying to police and lying about hate crimes and the fact it diverts important resources,” she said.
A Chicago jury found Smollett, who is 39, guilty on Thursday of five counts of felony disorderly conduct for making false reports to police. He was acquitted of one count of felony disorderly conduct.
The actor, who is Black and gay, claimed to be a victim of a January 2019 attack, saying two men tied a noose around his neck and shouted racist, homophobic and pro-Trump remarks at him.
But prosecutors in the case argued that Smollett hired two brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, to use racist and homophobic slurs against him while wearing red caps similar to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hats and to include a rope as part of the fake attack to “make it look like a hate crime.”