The Rev. Al Sharpton believes Jussie Smollett should face “accountability” if Chicago police determine the actor staged his attack.
“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,” Sharpton said Sunday evening on his MSNBC show Politics Nation.
The civil rights leader went on to say if Smollett and two Nigerian men orchestrated the attack, they should be punished.
“If it is found that Smollett and these gentlemen did in some way perpetuate something that is not true, they ought to face accountability to the maximum. But let’s not act like this is some left-wing hoax that some are saying on social media,” he added.
On the morning of Jan. 29, Smollett told police he was beaten, doused with a chemical and had a rope placed around his neck by two attackers yelling racist and homophobic slurs.
When news broke about the incident, Sharpton expressed outrage.
“For Jussie, who’s not only a superb actor and singer but an activist who has fought against homophobia and racism and sexism, to be a victim is something that is totally unacceptable,” he told TMZ last month.
But over the weekend, Chicago police said new evidence changed the “trajectory” of the case, with the investigation shifting to Smollett.
That new evidence surfaced after two days of questioning Nigerian brothers Obabinjo and Abimbola
Osundairo — who were earlier identified as “potential suspects.”
“We can confirm that the information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the ‘Empire’ case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation,” Chicago police said in a statement Saturday night to Urban Hollywood 411. “We’ve reached out to the ‘Empire’ cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”
Meanwhile, the Osundairo brothers made their first public comments Monday since they were arrested last week.
“We are not racist. We are not homophobic, and we are not anti-Trump. We were born and raised in Chicago
and are American citizens,” they told CBS 2 Chicago.
Police are still waiting to re-interview Smollett. His lawyers released a statement Monday saying, “There are no plans for Jussie Smollett to meet with Chicago police today.”
The actor has insisted he is telling the truth. But support for the star appears to be crumbling, as fans flood social media with comments accusing him of “lying.”
Civil rights activists in Los Angeles held a news conference Sunday saying Smollett should be prosecuted for allegedly filing a false police report.
“Jussie Smollett must be brought to justice for lying,” said Project Islamic Hope Director and CEO Najee Ali. “We believed Smollett at the beginning. We gave him the benefit of the doubt, but over the last few days, we’ve seen this campaign of lies by Smollett continue to be unraveled.”
Ali said Smollett harmed “true victims of racism and hate crimes.”
“We have many members of the black community and the LGBTQ community who have been the victims of hate crimes. So for Smollett to say that he was a victim of racism and hate crimes — and we believe that is a lie — certainly is an injustice to those true victims of racism and hate crimes,” Ali said as he stood in front of an LAPD station.
The activist then slammed Smollett’s statements — including on Good Morning America last week — that the attackers called him a “fa–ott” and “ni–er.”
“Smollett could have created a race war. There are many African-Americans and many members of the LGBTQ community who were very upset and outraged by Smollett claiming he was attacked and victimized,” Ali stated. “So, there were some in those communities whose thoughts are more extreme, they wanted to retaliate.”
He concluded by calling for “calm” and urging Smollett to apologize.
“At the end of the day, Smollett, if he really wants to help, just apologize. Just say you’re sorry, you made a mistake, but stop lying,” Ali said. “You’re losing credibility… more and more people are not believing you.”
The actor’s attorneys say there is absolutely no truth to reports he played a role in the attack.
“As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with,” defense lawyers, Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson, said in a statement. “He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.”