The Rev. Al Sharpton, a former White House adviser during Barack Obama’s presidency, hit the airwaves and called out “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, saying that he should face “accountability to the maximum” should the allegations that Smollett staged a hate crime in January be proved true.
On Sunday, Sharpton, a prominent and vocal civil rights activist, decried Smollett’s alleged actions and slammed the actor on his political MSNBC talk show, “Politics Nation.”
“I, among many others when hearing of the report, said that the reports were horrific and that we should come with all that we can come with in law enforcement to find out what happened and the guilty should suffer the maximum,” he said.
Sharpton continued on in the segment, saying he “still maintained” his view and that if Smollett and the others allegedly involved “did in some way perpetuate something that is not true” that they should face “accountability to the maximum.”
Watch the video below:
AL SHARPTON FRFR!
— GoGoTheGreek💥 (@GoGoTheGreek) February 19, 2019
Sharpton echoed these statements to reporters at a lunch in Harlem with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.)
“Whoever is wrong should pay the maximum,” Sharpton said. “If Smollett is wrong, he ought to face accountability to the maximum.”
When asked about the Smollett case, however, Harris — the former California attorney general who, in a tweet, had referred to the alleged assault as a “modern day lynching” — outright ignored reporters, instead opting to rush to her car and giving Sharpton a hug before leaving.
— The Hill (@thehill) February 21, 2019
.@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
When asked about the tweet at a campaign event on Tuesday, Harris froze and looked to her campaign advisers before saying she thinks “that the facts are still unfolding” and that she was “very concerned” about Smollett’s initial allegation.
She went on to say:
“And it’s something we should all take seriously whenever anyone, um, alleges that kind of behavior, but there should be an investigation. And I think that once the investigation has concluded then we can all comment, but I’m not going to comment until I know the outcome of the investigation.”
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) on her tweet saying the Jussie Smollett case was an “attempted modern-day lynching”:
“Which tweet? What tweet? … [laughs] Um, ah, ah, uh, okay, so I will say this about that case, I think the facts are still unfolding and um, I’m very, um, concerned” pic.twitter.com/qKwI2lewzR
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) February 18, 2019
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), another Democratic presidential primary candidate, also backtracked from his initial comments regarding the case in which he called the “vicious attack” on Smollett a “modern-day lynching.” Booker said he would “withhold” further comments until after “all the information actually comes out from on-the-record sources.”
The vicious attack on actor Jussie Smollett was an attempted modern-day lynching. I'm glad he's safe.
To those in Congress who don't feel the urgency to pass our Anti-Lynching bill designating lynching as a federal hate crime– I urge you to pay attention. https://t.co/EwXFxl5f2m
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) January 29, 2019
Smollett, who is black and gay, was arrested Thursday by Chicago police and charged with filing a false police report as well as felony disorderly conduct.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson blasted Smollett on Thursday, saying in a press conference that Smollett “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”
JUST IN: "'Empire' actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career," Chicago PD Superintendent Eddie Johnson says. https://t.co/5AiMcfe6iH pic.twitter.com/nOOhk0e8YD
— ABC News (@ABC) February 21, 2019
In January, Smollett approached police and alleged that he was assaulted by two men who lobbed racial and anti-gay slurs at the actor while yelling “This is MAGA country” before pouring bleach on him and tying a noose around his neck.
If found guilty, according to NBC Chicago, Smollett could face up to three years in prison.