Then-Sen. Kamala Harris was quick to condemn the “attempted modern day lynching” of Jussie Smollett shortly after he reported being the victim of a hate crime, and she wasn’t the only one.
Flashbacks of prominent Democrats and liberals who rushed to champion Smollet’s claim played out Thursday on social media shortly after a Chicago jury found the former “Empire” co-star guilty of staging the Jan. 29, 2019, assault.
Leading the parade of those who amplified Smollett‘s hate-crime charge were Ms. Harris, now vice president, and President Biden, who declared in a tweet the day the story broke: “What happened today to @JussieSmollett must never be tolerated in this country.”
Conservative radio host Buck Sexton was among those on the right who skewered how the Democrats fell for the fraud.
“Jussie Smollett’s obvious hoax was an intelligence test that millions of liberals failed from day one — Including Biden and Kamala,” tweeted Mr. Sexton.
Also buying Smollett‘s tale was Sen. Cory Booker, New Jersey Democrat, who denounced what he called an “attempted modern-day lynching.” Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Michigan Democrat, decried the “racist, homophobic attack.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, then mayor of South Bend, Indiana, tweeted: “While the struggle for basic hate crime legislation continues here in Indiana, this horrible attack calls all Americans to stand against hatred and violence in all its forms.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton declared that the “reported hate attack on my friend and brother, actor Jussie Smollett is despicable and outrageous. The guilty must face the maximum.”
Conservative media critic Stephen L. Miller responded Thursday by quipping on Twitter: “I have good news, Reverend.”
His @redsteeze Twitter account became a repository of 2019 tweets about Smollett that didn’t age well in the aftermath of the hoax conviction, prompting critics to slam the left’s confirmation bias on the incident despite his yarn having some glaring red flags.
For example, Smollett, now 39, said that he was beaten and had a noose placed around his neck by two men in ski masks who recognized him from the show and shouted “This is MAGA country,” referring to then-President Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan.
Skeptics pointed out that Smollett was in deep-blue Chicago, not exactly a hotbed of pro-Trump activity.
The incident also allegedly took place at 2 a.m. as Smollett walked back to his apartment after making a Subway run — during a polar vortex with the temperatures well below freezing.
According to Smollett, the attackers knew that he was gay and called him a homophobic slur, even though he was not widely known outside the “Empire” fandom.
“These thugs, who shouted Trump slogans as well as racist and homophobic slurs, seemed to know who Smollett was on sight, meaning they were aficionados of the splashy black soap opera Empire, on which Smollett is a main character,” said Columbia University professor John McWhorter in a Feb. 20, 2019, op-ed in the Atlantic.
“Somehow they were aware that Smollett, prominent but hardly on the A-list as celebrities go, was gay,” he noted.
Or as comedian Dave Chappelle put it, “if you’re racist and homophobic, you’re not even gonna know who this n—- is. You can’t watch ‘Empire.’”
Even so, plenty of Democrats accepted the account uncritically.
Then-Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez didn’t hesitate to pass judgment, tweeting on Jan. 30, 2019: “Let’s call it what it is: A vicious hate crime.”
The Twitter account Libs of Tik Tok assembled Thursday a greatest hits of pro-Smollett sentiment, which included Rep. Eric Swalwell tweeting that the attack was “vile and tragic.”
“But crimes like this are happening more frequently,” said the California Democrat.
The @1776Fightr account opined that “Kamala Harris, Eric Swalwell, Nancy Pelosi, Cory Booker, all fell for Smollett‘s bald-faced lies and then when the truth came out they grew silent. The mainstream media did the same.”
Daily Beast columnist Matt Lewis offered an explanation in a Dec. 1 op-ed: “For many progressives, the story was ‘too good to check’ - so they didn’t.”
Smollett steadfastly maintained his innocence throughout the trial. Defense attorney Nenye Uche said Thursday that his client would appeal and called him “100% innocent.”
Smollett was found guilty on five of six counts of felony disorderly conduct stemming from his false report to Chicago police.
Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris have not yet commented publicly on the verdict.