Donald Trump has finally condemned a “horrible” attack on Emprie star Jussie Smollett, amid allegations that the attackers shouted a pro-Trump slogan and racist, homophobic slurs.
Out TV star Smollett, who plays a high-profile gay character on Fox show Empire was attacked in the early hours of Tuesday (January 29) in Chicago.
The actor was hospitalised after the violent incident, in which he was reportedly branded a “faggot Empire n****r” and had a noose tied around his neck by two men.
Smollett told Chicago Police that the attackers shouted homophobic and racist abuse, as well as the acronym ‘MAGA’, which stands for the pro-Trump slogan “Make America Great Again.”
ThatGrapeJuice, the first outlet to report the attack, further alleged that a threatening letter also repeating ‘MAGA’ alongside the phrase “You will die black fag.”
Trump pivots away from question over Jussie Smollett attack
Despite calls for him to disavow the attack, the President has been silent on the issue for two days, but finally condemned it in a press briefing on Thursday (January 31).
Pressed on the issue by American Urban Radio Networks reporter April Ryan, he said: “That I can tell you is horrible. I’ve seen it last night, I think that’s horrible, It doesn’t get worse, as far as I’m concerned.”
The President then immediately pivoted to talking about the US government shutdown, continuing: “As far as the people are concerned, many of the people wanted me to stay out, but I didn’t want to do it because people were getting hurt.
“What I think is the worst sin of all is the fact that we’re allowing people to come into this country and sell drugs and human traffic, that if we had the simplicity of a wall, they wouldn’t be able to come in.
“That to me is a great sin.”
White House had been silent on Jussie Smollett attack despite reported ‘MAGA’ link
Trump’s comments is the first response issued by any White House official, with the two-day silence from the Trump administration leading to criticism.
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Many Democratic leaders rushed to condemn the attack in the wake of the incident, while some campaigners highlighted the reported pro-Trump epithet.
Civil rights campaigner and former Obama adviser Al Sharpton told TMZ: “If, in fact, they said [MAGA] then it ought to be denounced by the President, the author and main proselytiser of ‘Make American Great Again’.
“I don’t hold the President responsible, but since he tweets about everything else, he should tweet the disassociation that his slogan would have with this.
“His silence would be very, very deafening.”
In their messages of support, Booker and Harris urged their fellow politicians to pass the anti-lynching bill they co-sponsored in the Senate.
Booker, a New Jersey Senator, tweeted: “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.”
Harris, who is seeking to challenge Trump in 2020, said: “Jussie Smollett 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 colour of their skin. We must confront this hate.”