Rep. Maxine Waters is not ready to believe her long-time friend Jussie Smollett actually staged his own attack.
The California Democrat struggled to believe that the “Empire” actor who marched with her in a Pride Parade and visited her office could be guilty of a hoax claiming he was the victim of a racist, homophobic attack in Chicago last month.
“I don’t think we can, at this point, make sense of it,” Maxine Waters told Variety‘s Marc Malkin on Thursday at Essence’s Black Women in Hollywood Awards.
“There are still some questions that we have, some answers that have to be given,” the Democrat lawmaker said. “He’s a friend. He was at my office. We marched in the Pride Parade together, he introduced me at ‘Black Girls Rock,’ and so, I believed him, when I heard about it.”
Smollet was arrested Thursday for filing a false police report and disorderly conduct in last month’s alleged assault in which he claimed two men had attacked him, poured a chemical on him and put a rope around his neck, while yelling racist and homophobic slurs at him.
Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson excoriated Smollett in a blistering statement as he revealed more troubling details.
Initial reports of the alleged assault caused many Democrats like Waters to rush to defend the 36-year-old actor, denouncing the attack as a hate crime even as police struggled to find any evidence that it had occurred. While many, like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, later deleted previous tweets supporting Smollett, Waters left hers alone.
Jussie is my friend – a very talented & beautiful human being. It is so hurtful that homophobic haters would dare hurt someone so loving and giving. I’m dedicated to finding the culprits and bringing them to justice. Jussie did not deserve to be harmed by anyone!
— Maxine Waters (@RepMaxineWaters) January 30, 2019
— GARY (@GaryGongaware) February 21, 2019
Sen. Kamala Harris found herself struggling to defend her own initial reaction to the alleged attack in which she condemned it as a “modern-day lynching.” Confronted with her own words, the California Democrat and 2020 presidential candidate seemed confused and stammered her response.
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) February 19, 2019
Even after news of the arrest, Waters was still “hopeful” that Smollett did not make up the attack, despite grand jury testimony from the two Nigerian brothers who said they were allegedly paid by the actor to perpetrate the hate crime hoax. Video surfaced of the men in a Chicago hardware store buying a red hat and ski masks the day before the incident.
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) February 21, 2019
“I still don’t know all of the details. I’m waiting for the final results of all of this,” Waters told Variety.
“If in fact it’s a hoax, of course, I would be disappointed, but I’m just hopeful, that whatever goes on, and if he finds that he’s in trouble, that his life will be changed, then he has to re-do it all over again,” she added.
Meanwhile, President Trump called on the actor in a tweet on Thursday to apologize for smearing Trump-supporting conservatives as racist and homophobic.
“Jussie Smollett — what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!? #MAGA,” Trump wrote on Twitter Thursday.
A judge granted a $100,000 bail, and Smollett paid a $10,000 bond, at his court appearance on Thursday, according to CNN. His attorneys had already issued a statement vowing to “mount an aggressive defense.”
“Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked. Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense,” the attorneys said.
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