Legal defense funds have been set up on his behalf since Rittenhouse’s arrest, right-wing commentators have blown media coverage of allegedly mishandled facts of the case, memes depicting Rittenhouse as heroes – or even Captain America – have surfaced on Twitter, and T-shirts have been hit Made with the silhouette of Rittenhouse shooting at his gun with the words “Don’t Tread on Me” and “Free Kyle”. Florida Republican Matt Gaetz offered Rittenhouse an internship in Congress if he was acquitted.
Republican strategist Gregg Keller said he could see a future in which Rittenhouse would become a keynote speaker at the Conservative Confabs, where activists congregate. A CPAC invitation “wouldn’t surprise me. … I think every effort will be made to make him a conservative hero, “said Keller. “I think given the situation he was in, what he did seems justified – but I would stop raving about him as a hero, a 17 year old kid who found himself in that situation. ”
Neither CPAC nor Turning Point USA commented on a possible invitation to Rittenhouse.
The trial of Rittenhouse, charged with those fatal shootings on multiple occasions in 2020, was the most recent event to divide a deeply divided country. For a new one Economist / YouGov According to a poll, 76 percent of Democrats believed Rittenhouse should have been found guilty of the murder, while 65 percent of Republicans did not. The left has portrayed the teen as inconsiderate and balanced racist for going to Kenosha armed with an AR-15 when violence broke out following Jacob Blake’s shooting by Kenosha police.
In response to this, the right gathered around Rittenhouse, large and exuberant. They argued that the media misrepresented his motives and the details of the case, mainly by rejecting his claims that he feared for his life, acted in self-defense, and that the men killed were white. Fox News commentators like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity have devoted nightly monologues to blow up media coverage of the Rittenhouse trial and defend the teen.
“That’s what happens when powerful people in the media, in Washington, in the swamp … rush to court,” said Hannity. “And unfortunately it happens every time and again and again.” [with] the same cast of characters. The media mob … gets it wrong and innocent people … pay the price. ”
The same commentators grabbed a Joe Biden Campaign tweet from over a year ago when Rittenhouse was cast as a white supremacist. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said she would not comment on an ongoing trial or the president’s earlier words. Nor did she immediately comment on the verdict.
The totality of the developments prompted the Conservatives not only to defend Rittenhouse, but to portray him as the victim of a political hit.
“Kyle is clearly innocent,” the conservative activist Charlie Kirk told POLITICO. “But there is more to this process than Kyle. It’s about the rule of law, it’s about the Constitution, Amendment 2 and the right to defend yourself when a violent mob attacks you. The point is whether an American citizen is given an impartial jury of peers who will not be intimidated by threats of riot if they acquit an innocent man. “
Kirk announced that he would be interviewing Rittenhouse for his radio show and podcast in the coming days.
The worship of Rittenhouse on the right was not universal. Some conservatives shrank from the idea of celebrating what they viewed as vigilance. They have argued that portraying Rittenhouse as anything but a teenager whose reckless behavior resulted in the deaths of two men is “dangerous” and they warned that although Rittenhouse may have acted in self-defense, killings are still morally wrong .
“If you turn a foolish young man into a hero, you will see more foolish young men trying to follow suit,” wrote conservative commentator David French in The Atlantic. “And while the state should not allow rioters to rampage in America’s streets, random groups of armed Americans are utterly incapable of enforcing order on their own, and any effort to do so can lead to even more death and slaughter.”
But these voices were in the minority. More often the refrain was that Rittenhouse, like others before him, was the victim of media hysteria. Kirk pointed to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Nick Sandmann, the Kentucky teenage boy falsely accused of attempting to intimidate a Native American drummer at the Lincoln Memorial, as similar “gibberish” cases in the media.
The Sandmann case in particular looks revealing for Rittenhouse. He sued CNN and The Washington Post for defamation and became a real celeb for it. The lawsuits were settled, and Sandmann was eventually invited to speak at the 2020 Republican National Convention, where he warned against “breaking culture”. In the days before the Rittenhouse judgment he wrote a Daily Mail op-ed in which he encouraged the 18-year-old to sue for defamation. “Try it and hold the media accountable,” Sandmann wrote.