Democratic presidential contender Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) says that the fact that Hollywood actor Jussie Smollet’s “hate crime” story turned out to be a hoax should not distract from the larger truth of rising hate crimes.
When Smollett first reported January 29 that he had been attacked by two white men who had shouted racist and homophobic slurs, and who had added, “This is MAGA country,” as they put a noose around his neck, Harris called the alleged hate crime “an attempted modern day lynching.”
.@JussieSmollett is one of the kindest, most gentle human beings I know. I’m praying for his quick recovery.
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.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) January 29, 2019
On Thursday, after Smollett was arrested for filing a false police report, Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson — who is black — blasted Harris and other Democrats indirectly for spreading the hoax.
“To make things worse,” he said, “the accusations within this phony attack received national attention for weeks. Celebrities, news commentators and even presidential candidates weighed in on something that was choreographed by an actor.”
Harris responded to the new developments in the story with a Facebook post on Thursday:
Like most of you, I’ve seen the reports about Jussie Smollett, and I’m sad, frustrated, and disappointed. When anyone makes false claims to police, it not only diverts resources away from serious investigations but it makes it more difficult for other victims of crime to come forward. At the same time, we must speak the truth: hate crimes are on the rise in America. Just last year, the FBI released statistics that revealed a 17 percent increase in the number of hate crimes in America. Part of the tragedy of this situation is that it distracts from that truth, and has been seized by some who would like to dismiss and downplay the very real problems that we must address. We should not allow that. I will always condemn racism and homophobia. We must always confront hate directly, and we must always seek justice. That is what I will keep fighting for.
The 17% increase that Harris cites has been questioned. As Reason.com’s Robby Soave has noted:
The overall number of law enforcement agencies reporting hate crime data also increased greatly—approximately 1,000 additional agencies contributed figures in 2017 than in 2016. This means it’s not obviously the case that hate crimes are more prevalent in 2017. Maybe the government just did a better job of counting them.
This seems even more plausible when the raw totals are considered. The FBI counted 7,175 hate crimes in 2017, compared with 6,121 in 2016. That’s a difference of about 1,000. If every agency reporting data for the first time in 2017 reported just one hate crime, this would account for the entire 17 percent increase.
Harris did not apologize for inflaming public opinion with her comment on “lynching.”
Also on Thursday, Harris made a political pilgrimage to Harlem in New York City to meet and dine with Al Sharpton.
Sharpton was responsible for promoting another notorious have crime hoax — namely, the Tawana Brawley case of 1987, in which a black teenager claimed to have been abducted, sodomized, and smeared with feces and racial slurs. She falsely accused a white prosecutor of being one of her assailants. He later won a defamation lawsuit; Sharpton was ordered to pay damages but refused to do so, relying on supporters to pay the amount he owed.
In 2012, Sharpton was also partly responsible for inflaming the death of Trayvon Martin into a national racial outrage, claiming that neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who is half Peruvian, was a “white man.”
A Gallup poll released Thursday revealed a sharp drop in public perceptions of race relations, beginning in 2013 at the height of the Trayvon Martin controversy.
Sharpton also has a long history of racism, antisemitism,and incitement, and is blamed for encouraging deadly riots in New York on two separate occasions.
Sharpton told reporters Thursday that Smollett should face “accountability to the maximum” if convicted.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.