- The Washington Times - Friday, December 10, 2021

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Friday said lying about a hate crime is “shameful” and hurts real victims of such incidents as she reacted to Thursday’s guilty verdict against actor Jussie Smollett.

A Chicago jury found Smollett guilty of five counts of felony disorderly conduct for making false reports to the police. He was acquitted on one count of felony disorderly conduct.

Smollett, a Black and gay actor who starred on the TV show “Empire,” claimed to be the victim of a racial attack in January 2019. He said two men tied a noose around his neck while screaming racist, homophobic and pro-Trump remarks.

It was later revealed that Smollett paid two brothers to wear red caps similar to Mr. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hats and include a rope to make the staged attack look like a hate crime.

Ms. Psaki dodged a question about the unequivocal support President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris expressed for Smollett in the immediate aftermath of the purported attack.

Instead, Ms. Psaki pivoted to former President Donald Trump’s condemnation of the alleged attack as “horrible.” Mr. Trump later mocked Smollett once it was revealed that he faked the incident.

But Ms. Harris and Mr. Biden have remained largely silent about the case as the facts came out.

At the time of the incident, Ms. Harris called it a “modern-day lynching” and praised Smollett as “one of the kindest, gentlest human beings I know.”

Mr. Biden, meanwhile, tweeted, “We are with you, Jussie.”

Ms. Psaki said people who falsely report a hate crime should be punished.

“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,” she told reporters.

“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,” Ms. Psaki continued.

“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.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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