CNN contributor Symone Sanders said Thursday night that the attack in Chicago on a white, mentally challenged teenager, allegedly by four African-American assailants, was a hate crime.
Sanders, who previously served as press secretary for Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I., Vt.) presidential campaign, backtracked from her statements on Wednesday night, when she was skeptical that the violent attack should be classified as a hate crime.
Host Anderson Cooper was leading a discussion with other panelists about the brutal torture of a white Chicago teenager with special needs. The perpetrators scalped and beat the teenager, among other violent and degrading acts. One of the assailants broadcast the attack on a Facebook Live video in which the attackers can be heard yelling expletives about President-elect Donald Trump and white people.
"I know when you first saw this yesterday on camera I think you said it was sickening. You weren't sure if it constituted a hate crime. Do you still think that now that the prosecutors are charging that?" Cooper asked Sanders.
"I think the prosecutors have done the right thing," Sanders responded. She then acknowledged that it might be "dangerous" for people without legal backgrounds, including herself, to comment on such complex legal issues.
Chicago authorities on Thursday charged four African-American individuals with a slew of offensives, including carrying out a hate crime, in connection with the torture video.
"What's the hesitancy to use the word hate crime? If this was four skinheads doing this to an African-American teenager with a disability, wouldn't it be fair to call it a hate crime?" Cooper asked, pressing Sanders on why she would not call the incident a hate crime on Wednesday night.
"Yesterday on air when it was all breaking we didn't have all the details. We were speculating," Sanders said in defense of her earlier comments.
She then said that she now views the kidnapping and torture as a hate crime, but suggested that the panel was focusing on the wrong aspect of the crime.
"These young people should be prosecuted. Justice should be served, but we need to have some additional conversations, I think, about our society," Sanders said.