Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-NY) was less forthcoming on the Jussie Smollett case Sunday than he was when the story first surfaced, telling reporters that he was adopting a “wait-and-see” approach to news Smollett is being investigated for orchestrating his own attack.
Reporter Elana Schor of the Associated Press caught Cory Booker in Washington, D.C., Sunday morning, and asked the presidential hopeful if he had further thoughts on Smollett’s case, after calling the incident a “modern day lynching” mere hours after Smollett claimed to have been attacked by two assailants yelling racist and anti-gay slurs.
“The information is still coming out. I’m going to withhold until all the information actually comes out from on the record sources,” Booker said.
NEW: Booker said he is waiting for more info on the new reports of Jussie Smollet’s attack potentially being a planned hoax. He called it a “modern-day lynching” when first reported. pic.twitter.com/rHNNJtNvCs
— Bo Erickson (@BoKnowsNews) February 17, 2019
This is a far cry from how Booker treated the case immediately after news of the incident originally came to light.
Smollett reported being accosted in downtown Chicago by two unknown men dressed in black on the morning of January 29. In his initial police report, Smollett claimed the two men were waiting for him outside of his apartment building when he returned from purchasing a sandwich from a Subway shop three blocks away. The two men allegedly knocked Smollett to the ground, poured an “unknown liquid” on him, believed by Smollett to be bleach, and tossed a rope around Smollett’s neck.
TMZ reported the incident as a “hate crime” later that morning.
Although local Chicago reporters were already pointing out potential holes in Smollett’s story, Booker expressed his unqualified support for the “Empire” actor, calling the attack a “modern-day lynching” in a tweet and encouraging his colleagues in Congress to support his anti-lynching legislation.
“The vicious attack on actor Jussie Smollett was an attempted modern-day lynching. I’m glad he’s safe,” Booker tweeted. “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.”
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
This past Saturday, sources within the Chicago Police Department revealed to CNN, among other mainstream outlets, that Smollett was no longer being considered a “victim” in the incident, and that Smollett may have orchestrated the attack himself.
Media networks also reported that two Nigerian men arrested in connection with the incident had indicated to police that Smollett paid them $4,000 each to help him stage the attack, and substantiated their claims with receipts listing their purchase of rope and two “plain red hats.”
On Sunday, the Chicago Police Department pleaded with Smollett to submit to additional interviews with detectives on the case: “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,” CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told media Sunday afternoon, adding, “We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”
Smollett released a statement Saturday night insisting that he was not involved in his own attack.