During an appearance at a bookstore in Concord, N.H., a female reporter asked the senator from California if she wanted to amend a tweet from Jan. 29, in which she said Smollett was the victim of “an attempted modern day lynching” and called the actor “one of the kindest, most gentle human beings I know.” Harris has also used the Smollett attack to push legislation that would make lynching a federal hate crime.
“Which tweet? What tweet?” Harris asked. As the reporter specified the tweet in question, Harris appeared to look around for a campaign staffer before responding.
“OK, so, I will say this about that case,” she said. “I think that the facts are still unfolding, and, um, I’m very, um, concerned about obviously, the initial, um, allegation that he made about what might have happened.
“And it’s something we should all take seriously whenever anyone, um, alleges that kind of behavior, but there should be an investigation,” Harris added. “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.”
“Kamala Harris had no problem using inflammatory rhetoric to tie the #JussieSmollettHoax to @realDonaldTrump & his supporters,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tweeted late Monday. “Now that she has the facts, why can’t she even remember her divisive language? Why is she giggling about it?”
On Sunday, Harris’ fellow senator and Democratic presidential candidate, Cory Booker, told reporters he would “withhold” judgment on the matter “until all the information actually comes out from on-the-record sources.” Booker also referred to the alleged Jan. 29 attack on Smollett as “an attempted modern-day lynching” and called on Congress to make lynching a federal hate crime.
Smollett, who is black and openly gay, claimed he was assaulted by two men who yelled racist and anti-gay slurs– as well as the phrase “This is MAGA country!” — as Smollett was walking to his Chicago apartment. Chicago police arrested and questioned two Nigerian brothers in the alleged attack, but released them on Friday without charges. Investigators said they’ve requested a follow-up interview with Smollett, but the actor’s representatives said there have been no plans to meet with police for the time being.
The Chicago Police Department has repeatedly declined to confirm local media reports that the attack was staged.
Fox News’ Mariah Haas contributed to this report.