White House Calls Jussie Smollett Crime 'Shameful' After First Tweeting Support for Actor

The White House has called it "shameful" that actor Jussie Smollett lied to police about a hate crime, although both President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris published tweets expressing support for the actor in January 2019 when he first claimed to have been targeted by a racist and anti-gay hate attack.

"We respect the jury's decision," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said about Thursday's verdict against Smollett. "Lying to the police, particularly about something as heinous as a hate crime, is shameful. Instances of that need to be investigated fully, and those found guilty need to be punished."

"False accusations divert valuable police resources away from important investigations," Psaki continued while speaking during a Friday White House press briefing. "They make it harder for real victims to come forward and be believed."

Psaki added that accusations of hate crimes should be taken seriously.

Jussie Smollett verdict White House statement shameful
The White House called it "shameful" that Jussie Smollett lied to police about a hate crime, despite both President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris leaving up tweets expressing support for the actor. In this photo, Smollett waves as he follows his attorney to the microphones after his court appearance at Leighton Courthouse on March 26, 2019, in Chicago, Illinois. Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty

On January 29, 2019, Smollett claimed that he had been the victim of a racist and homophobic attack. The Empire actor told police that two white men attacked him, poured bleach on him, put a noose around his neck, and shouted, "This is MAGA country." MAGA is an acronym for "Make America Great Again," the 2016 campaign slogan of former President Donald Trump.

In response to the attack, Biden issued a tweet at the time that said, "What happened today to @JussieSmollett must never be tolerated in this country. We must stand up and demand that we no longer give this hate safe harbor; that homophobia and racism have no place on our streets or in our hearts. We are with you, Jussie."

Harris issued a tweet that read, in part, "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."

The journalist who asked Psaki about the White House's initial responses to the Smollett verdict also asked the press secretary if "there any lessons learned about rushing to judgment when a crime is alleged."

Psaki responded, "There are lessons learned perhaps for everybody who commented at the time," including Trump.

On January 31, 2019, Trump said, "It doesn't get worse, as far as I'm concerned," when commenting on the attack to reporters.

When Smollett was later accused of faking the attack and arrested under suspicion for doing so, Trump tweeted that the case was a "national embarrassment."

Trump also tweeted, "@JussieSmollett — What about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!?"