Gabbard: If guilty, Smollett should apologize, ‘be prosecuted to fullest extent’

Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardHarris's stepkids call her 'Momala' Chicago mayor race mirrors national push for more women in office, says columnist Biden leads CNN poll, but Harris, Sanders on the rise MORE (D-Hawaii), who announced last month she is running for president, said that if “Empire” star Jussie Smollett is found guilty of staging an assault he should apologize to the American public for diminishing the accounts of assault victims and be prosecuted.

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“If it is proven that Smollett fabricated a hoax, then he will have done a terrible disservice to actual victims and future victims of hate crimes. It will be much less likely for future victims to be believed,” Gabbard tweeted.

“If he is guilty, Jussie needs to not only apologize to the American people, he needs to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law to send a strong message to any potential future ‘hoaxers.’ ”

 

Smollett was arrested Thursday and charged with felony disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report about a January assault in which he said assailants hurled racial and homophobic slurs and poured a chemical on him. Police said he paid two brothers $3,500 to stage the attack in order to boost his salary on the show.

The actor could face one to three years in prison and was released on $100,000 bail.

The case has become a lightning rod among 2020 Democrats after several presidential candidates were quick to denounce the January incident, with Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisMichael Bennet 'encouraged' in possible presidential bid: report House Dems unveil measure to reject anti-Israel boycotts Strategist says Trump is 'retreating' from talking about foreign policy MORE (D-Calif.) calling it a “modern day lynching.” 

Harris said she was "frustrated" on Thursday following the arrest.

“Like most of you, I’ve seen the reports about Jussie Smollett, and I’m sad, frustrated, and disappointed,” Harris said in a statement. “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.”