Several police groups endorsed Kristen Clarke to lead the Justice Department’s civil rights division, even though the activist lawyer accused Chicago police of “demonizing” actor Jussie Smollett and “casting doubt” on his claim to be a victim of an anti-gay, anti-black hate crime.
The police investigation ultimately revealed that Smollett perpetuated a hate crime hoax.
The Major Cities Chiefs Association, the National Association of Police Organizations, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association, the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives all endorsed Clarke, according to the Associated Press.
The executive director of the International Association of Chiefs of Police also provided a personal endorsement.
If confirmed by the Senate, Clarke will be oversee federal hate crime investigations and cases of discrimination based on sex, gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Clarke’s commentary on Twitter could raise questions about how she views investigations of alleged hate crimes.
The Daily Caller News Foundation reported Tuesday that Clarke, who serves as president of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, praised Smollett after he claimed that he was attacked by two white Trump supporters in Chicago.
“Jussie Smollett was subjected to a racist and homophobic attack,” Clarke tweeted on Jan. 29, 2019.
“2 white men wearing ski masks attacked him, put a rope around his neck, and poured bleach on him and as they yelled slurs.”
“Prayers to @JussieSmollett for a speedy recovery from this hate crime.”
Jussie Smollett subjected to a racist and homophobic attack.
2 white men wearing ski masks attacked him, put a rope around his neck, and poured bleach on him and as they yelled slurs.
— Kristen Clarke (@KristenClarkeJD) January 29, 2019
Smollett, who is black and gay, told police that two white men who shouted “this is MAGA country” attacked him early one morning near his home in Chicago. He said the men shouted anti-gay and anti-black slurs at him, and put a rope around his neck.
Clarke went even further than just offering support for Smollett, who was an actor on the Fox drama “Empire.”
She criticized the Chicago Police Department for requesting access to Smollett’s cell phone as part of its investigation into the alleged hate crime.
“To be clear — This is a BAD move by the Chicago Police Department,” Clarke tweeted on Feb. 1, 2019, in response to a news report that police were seeking access to Smollett’s phone.
“This is NOT how you treat survivors of a hate crime. Stop demonizing survivors and casting doubt on their claims if you want communities to trust that you will take #HateCrime seriously.”
To be clear — This is a BAD move by the Chicago Police Department. This is NOT how you treat survivors of a hate crime. Stop demonizing survivors and casting doubt on their claims if you want communities to trust that you will take #HateCrime seriously. @StopHateProj https://t.co/RIvF2tltly
— Kristen Clarke (@KristenClarkeJD) February 1, 2019
But Smollett was not a survivor of the alleged crime. The police investigation ultimately led to the discovery that Smollett fabricated the entire incident.
He was later charged on felony counts of falsifying a police report. Two of Smollett’s friends, who are both black, told police that Smollett paid them $3,500 to stage a fake attack on the actor.
That development did not end Clarke’s criticism of how the Smollett investigation was handled.
In February 2020, Clarke defended Chicago state’s attorney Kim Foxx, who had come under scrutiny early in the Smollett probe for dropping charges against the actor.
The judge overseeing the case appointed a special prosecutor to review Foxx’s decision and continue the investigation against Smollett. The investigation ultimately led to six felony charges against Smollett for filing false police reports.
Clarke defended Foxx’s right as a prosecutor to drop charges against Smollett.
“Prosecutors use their discretion every day. But when a duly elected Black prosecutor, Kim Foxx, uses her discretion to move on from the Jussie Smolett matter, it’s a different story,” Clarke tweeted on Feb. 23, 2020, nearly two weeks after Smollett had been indicted in the special prosecutor’s investigation.
“A special prosecutor is brought in to undermine her power.”
The groups that endorsed Clarke for the civil rights post did not immediately respond to requests for comment on her Smollett tweets.
According to the Associated Press, Art Acevedo, the chief of Houston police and president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, wrote in his endorsement of Clarke that President Joe Biden’s Justice Department nominees have “made it clear that they neither support defunding the police nor believe that doing so will bring about the change our communities are calling for.”
Clarke’s position on defunding the police is not entirely clear, though she published an opinion piece at Newsweek on June 11, 2020, with the headline, “I Prosecuted Police Killings. Defund the Police — But Be Strategic.”
Clarke did not call for the complete dismantling of police departments, as have some left-wing activists. She said she supports reallocating some police funding to social workers and mental health care. But she also wrote that she advocates for “defunding policing operations that have made African Americans more vulnerable to police violence and contributed to mass incarceration, while investing more in programs and policies that address critical community needs.”
Clarke’s organization did not respond to requests for comment about her past tweets and her current views on the Smollett hoax.