- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The trial of Jussie Smollett over an alleged hate-crime hoax thrust Vice President Kamala Harris back into the spotlight over her shoot-from-the-hip tweet that he was the victim of a “modern day lynching.”

Ms. Harris was hit with a wave of social media mockery this week over the nearly three-year-old tweet in which she blamed racism for the alleged attack on Mr. Smollett. The first prosecution witnesses testified Tuesday against the actor, who is accused of staging a fake assault in Chicago, which he denies.

“This was an attempted modern day lynching,” tweeted Ms. Harris on Jan. 29, 2019, the day Mr. Smollett reported being beaten up by two pro-Trump attackers. “Nobody should have to fear for their life because of their sexuality or color of their skin. We must confront this hate.”

Three weeks later, she walked back the comment without directly criticizing Mr. Smollett, saying she was “sad, frustrated and disappointed” while also declaring that “hate crimes are on the rise in America.”

Her tweets might have been forgotten but for the trial. 

The 39-year-old Mr. Smollett, previously a star on the Fox television show “Empire,” faces six counts of disorderly conduct based on his allegedly false police reports. His defense team says he was beaten up and then framed by the attackers.

Meanwhile, Ms. Harris faced renewed ridicule as she struggles with low approval ratings as well as the perception that, when it comes to accusations of wrongdoing, the former prosecutor is more interested in the political calculus than the facts.

“A series of quotes [tweets] like this certainly hasn’t illustrated restraint, or been the best thing for her future prospects,” said Wilfred Reilly, Kentucky State University associate professor and author of the 2019 book “Hate Crime Hoax.”

Ms. Harris did not respond to a request for comment by The Washington Times.

Her resurrected tweets made the rounds on social media along with commentary from conservative pundits such as Benny Johnson, who tweeted, “Flashback: Kamala Harris once called Jussie Smollett‘s claims of an attack an ‘attempted modern day lynching.’”

Said Twitchy in a Monday post: “Almost immediately after Smollett claimed to be the victim of a racist attack, Harris didn’t wait for the facts to start doing her thing.”

Portland, Oregon, journalist Andy Ngo tweeted that “Leftists across the US believed the actor’s wild claims at the time, including Kamala Harris,” while other commenters said her tweet had “aged like fine milk,” and that she “used the [Jussie] Smollett story to go on and on about the racism in the country.”

Meanwhile, The Daily Beast weighed in Tuesday with a column about her “habit of making flip comments, and tending to latch on to narratives that confirm her preferred worldview.”

“While Harris was far from the only progressive suckered into defending him, her comments were especially noteworthy because she said Mr. Smollett had undergone a ‘modern day lynching’ and because the former prosecutor would, not long after, end up as Joe Biden’s running mate,” said senior columnist Matt Lewis.

Mr. Biden initially expressed support for Mr. Smollett, declaring that “homophobia and racism have no place on our streets or in our hearts. We are with you, Jussie.”

Sen. Cory A. Booker, New Jersey Democrat, called it an “attempted modern-day lynching.” 

If Ms. Harris has borne the brunt of the criticism, it may be because she has a history.

As a senator from California, Ms. Harris sided with Christine Blasey Ford, declaring “I believe you” during the 2018 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, although Ms. Ford’s sexual assault allegation was unproven. Justice Kavanaugh was confirmed.

Ms. Harris showed support last year for Jacob Blake, who was shot seven times in the back by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, saying that the officer who pulled the trigger “should be charged.” State and federal prosecutors declined to press charges, noting that Mr. Blake was armed with a knife.

Blake attorney Ben Crump said that Ms. Harris told his client she was “proud of him and how he is working through his pain,” even though Mr. Blake faced charges at the time for an alleged sexual assault against his ex-girlfriend. He pleaded guilty in November 2020 to two counts of disorderly conduct and domestic abuse.

As California attorney general, Ms. Harris launched a 2016 raid on the home of pro-life investigator David Daleiden for his undercover filming of Planned Parenthood officials. He sued her last year, accusing her of weaponizing her office to punish her political foes after he was found guilty on charges including trespassing and violating recording laws. He has appealed.

Ms. Harris also encouraged donations on Twitter last year to the Minneapolis Freedom Fund “to help post bail for those protesting on the ground in Minnesota” as rioters looted businesses and set fire to a police precinct following a police officer’s killing of George Floyd.

Harris has — at least recently — been known for her advocacy for ‘woke’ causes, and has publicly supported Jacob Blake, Christine Blasey Ford, and Minneapolis rioters as well as Smollett,” said Mr. Reilly. “But, the elephant-in-the-room problem for her is that many modern-left narratives aren’t exactly accurate: Blake turned out to have been an accused rapist who was armed when police shot him, and Smollett may be the most notorious liar of this century so far.”

Mr. Smollett said he was attacked by two people in Chicago who beat him, put a noose around his neck, taunted him with racist and anti-gay slurs, and yelled “this is MAGA country,” referring to then-President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

Cook County prosecutor Kim Foxx’s office touched off a public outcry by dropping all charges against him in March 2019. A judge named a special prosecutor, Dan K. Webb, to reinvestigate. A grand jury indicted Mr. Smollett in February 2020.

Chicago Police Det. Michael Theis testified Tuesday that police “determined that the alleged hate crime was actually a staged event and that it did not occur.” Asked who orchestrated the hoax, he replied, “Mr. Jussie Smollett,” according to The Chicago Tribune.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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