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Dem Congressman on Smollett: 'Disappointing' for People to Leverage 'Any Phobia for Their Own Personal Gain'

"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett leaves Cook County jail

A member of the Congressional Black Caucus said he's "concerned" that actor Jussie Smollett may have been "so thirsty and hungry" to draw attention to his career that he orchestrated a false hate crime, as prosecutors allege.

Smollett reported to police on Jan. 29 that two men had assaulted him in a racist and homophobic attack. On Wednesday, he was indicted for disorderly conduct and filing a false police report for allegedly hiring two men to stage the attack. Smollett denies the allegations and his legal team includes Mark Geragos.

"Chicago's message to the world is that no matter where you come from, who you love, or how you pray you will always have a home here. Our laws exist to reflect and defend those values, and hate crimes will never be tolerated," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said today. "A single individual who put their perceived self-interest ahead of these shared principles will never trump Chicago's collective spirit."

Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.), a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee and law enforcement veteran, told CNN today that "it's unfortunate when anyone files a false police report or anyone makes a false claim and try to win influence or enact retribution in some kind of way in the court of public opinion."

"So justice is being served. There is still an ongoing investigation of sorts, so I don't want to condemn or defend. But I will say, you know, these things have to be dealt with. I think that if people are trying to leverage the environment and fragile race relations and homophobia, any phobia, for their own personal gain, it's disappointing," Carson said. "I had a chance to meet Mr. Smollett years ago. I met his sister. I met his family. He comes from a good family."

"Why he would do this presses the question, what kind of environment do we live in... where folks are using social media for their own personal gain and minimizing the victims of true assault, true anti-black sentiment, true homophobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia?"

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters that Smollett staged the crime as a "publicity stunt" and "when we discovered the actual motive, quite frankly, it pissed everybody off." The actor "took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career," Johnson said.

Carson noted that "in this insta-fame environment where, you know, one, it's good where you have social media as a platform to express grievances or build a profile to enhance your business or maybe your career" but "some have demonstrated themselves, even average citizens, to be so thirsty and hungry that they make false allegations."

"I think, as a law enforcement officer, they must be brought to justice and dealt with swiftly and firmly and we have to move forward," the congressman added. "But I'm concerned. I met his family, as I said before, years ago. He comes from a good family. It's unfortunate that this is happening. So much talent."