Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), a 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful, appeared to be caught off guard Monday when she was asked about her January tweet calling the alleged Jussie Smollett attack a “modern day lynching.”
.@JussieSmollett is one of the kindest, most gentle human beings I know. I’m praying for his quick recovery.— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) January 29, 2019
This was an attempted modern day lynching. No one should have to fear for their life because of their sexuality or color of their skin. We must confront this hate.
Given recent reports that the incident was staged, a reporter asked Harris about her tweet.
.@KamalaHarris's face and pause when asked about her previous tweet that the attack on Jussie Smollett was a "modern-day lynching" is something to behold— David Rutz (@DavidRutz) February 18, 2019
h/t @ThePowersThatBe pic.twitter.com/o9m7S0FTJ9
In response, Harris appeared confused and asked “which tweet?” She then answered, “okay, so I will say this about that case. I think the facts are still unfolding and I’m very concerned about obviously, the initial, um, allegation that he made about what might have happened.”
"And it’s something we should all take seriously whenever anyone, um, alleges that kind of behavior, but there should be an investigation," she added. "And I think that once the investigation has concluded then we can all comment, but I’m not going to comment until I know the outcome of the investigation."
Smollett, an actor in "Empire" who is black and gay, claimed that he was attacked while walking home in Chicago by two masked men who, he said, tied a noose around his neck and yelled racist, homophobic slurs and told him "this is MAGA country."
However, the Chicago Police Department said they had new information which "shifted" the investigation after the arrest and release of two suspects in connection with the alleged incident.
A source told CBS News that “two Nigerian brothers, Ola and Abel Osundairo, told detectives Smollett paid them to participate in the attack.”
"While we are not in a position to confirm, deny or comment on the validity of what's been unofficially released, there are some developments in this investigation and detectives have some follow-ups to complete which include speaking to the individual who reported the incident," the Chicago Police said in a statement Sunday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had deleted her tweet in support of Smollett by Monday which called the alleged attack "an affront to our humanity."
“As the Speaker who passed the fully inclusive Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, we spoke out because this appeared to be a deeply troubling incident of violence motivated against vulnerable communities,” Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for Pelosi, told Vanity Fair. “Given the turn in the investigation, we decided to no longer amplify the original accusation. Following the conclusion of the ongoing investigation, we will comment further. We should all be united in fighting racism and homophobia.”
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) made a comment to the press Sunday that was similar to what Harris said. However, he also took the opportunity to condemn “right-wing terrorist attacks.”
"I’m gonna withhold until all the information actually comes out from on-the-record sources," Booker said. "We know in America that bigoted and biased attacks are on the rise in a serious way, and we actually even know in this country that since 9/11, the majority of the terrorist attacks on our soil have been right-wing terrorist attacks -- the majority of them white supremacist attacks."
Booker had also initially called the attack an “attempted modern-day lynching.”
The vicious attack on actor Jussie Smollett was an attempted modern-day lynching. I'm glad he's safe.— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) January 29, 2019
To those in Congress who don't feel the urgency to pass our Anti-Lynching bill designating lynching as a federal hate crime– I urge you to pay attention. https://t.co/EwXFxl5f2m
GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel pointed out on Twitter Monday that Sen. Harris had "no problem" initially commenting on the situation.
Kamala Harris had no problem using inflammatory rhetoric to tie the #JussieSmollettHoax to @realDonaldTrump & his supporters.— Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) February 18, 2019
Now that she has the facts, why can't she even remember her divisive language? Why is she giggling about it? pic.twitter.com/imY8lxm89m