Amid a fraught and ugly culture “war,” acquitted criminal defendant Kyle Rittenhouse, 18, denied accusations of racism and said his case was about self-defense. He also said he supported the Black Lives Matter movement.
“This case has nothing to do with race,” Rittenhouse told Fox News’s Tucker Carlson in an interview scheduled to premiere Monday at 8 p.m. ET. “It never had anything to do with race. It had to do with the right to self-defense. I’m not a racist person. I support the BLM movement. I support peacefully demonstrating. I believe there needs to be change. I believe there’s a lot of prosecutorial misconduct, not just in my case but in other cases, and it’s just amazing to see how much a prosecutor can take advantage of somebody,” he said as the clip cut off.
For lack of a better term, however, racial “optics” infused his case. Judge Bruce Schroeder barred video from trial showing Rittenhouse previously expressing a desire to shoot a Black man he believed was shoplifting from a CVS.
“Bro, I wish I had my fucking AR,” he said. “I’d start shooting rounds at them.”
The defense acknowledged it was Rittenhouse in the video, and that he was talking about the AR-15 he used in the protest shooting he was put on trial for. The judge reasoned, however, these incidents were “too dissimilar.” Rittenhouse ended up calling 911 in the earlier incident, he said.
He would end up shooting and killing Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and injuring Gaige Grosskreutz, now 27, amid spiraling protests over a Kenosha, Wisconsin, police officer shooting local man Jacob Blake, who is Black. His defense maintained that he was acting in self-defense that fateful night of Aug. 25, 2020. Rosenbaum, who was belligerent all night, ambushed Rittenhouse, the defense said. Others at the scene–including Huber and Grosskreutz–attacked him without understanding what had really happened, the defense said.
“You didn’t drop your firearm,” Rittenhouse lawyer Corey Chirafisi told Grosskreutz during cross-examination. “You were chasing Mr. Rittenhouse with your gun.”
The state maintained that Rittenhouse, an Illinois native who has said he was in the area for lifeguard work, was on the streets armed with an AR-15 out of a dangerous sense of self-aggrandizement.
Jurors sided with the defense, acquitting him of all charges, including endangering a man known in court as “Jump Kick Man” (who was seen on video attacking Rittenhouse after the Rosenbaum shooting) and Daily Caller Chief Video Director Richie McGinniss (who witnessed the Rosenbaum shooting).
Rittenhouse and his defense have said he was on the streets that night just to help, and he had offered himself to people as a medic before the shootings.
“I tell everybody there what happened,” Rittenhouse said in the new interview. “I said, ‘I had to do it. I was just attacked.’ I was dizzy. I was vomiting. I couldn’t breathe.”
Closing arguments rarely got as personal as they did on Monday, as defense lawyer Mark Richards ripped into Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger, calling him a liar who misrepresented the facts of the case.
The incident became a cause célèbre among the political right, including those vicariously living through Rittenhouse and who fantasize about violence against perceived enemies on the political left.
Armed men, many if not all of whom were white and often described as “militia,” were in Kenosha ostensibly to protect private property from what the defense called rioters, though critics say these men were just instigating an already volatile situation.
The culture war aspects of the case were apparent from pretty much square one, and became all too apparent when Rittenhouse, out on bail, went to a bar with his mother Wendy Rittenhouse, took pictures with members of the self-described “Western chauvinist” group the Proud Boys, and flashed an “OK” hand gesture co-opted by white supremacist groups. The prosecution used that to further restrict the terms of Rittenhouse’s pretrial release from jail. Richards blamed then-Rittenhouse attorney John Pierce for the incident and others. Pierce glossed over our inquiry regarding Richards’s criticism, telling Law&Crime he was not in the state when the Proud Boys photo incident happened. He released a statement rejecting any entitlement to Rittenhouse’s $2 million bail money.
“His first lawyer was more interested in promoting himself than representing Kyle,” Richards told the Law&Crime Network’s Angenette Levy on Friday after being asked about Rittenhouse’s controversial photo with the Proud Boys. “And he did things with Kyle that never should have been done.”
Though not shy about post-verdict media interviews, Richards voiced displeasure about a Carlson film crew being embedded with Rittenhouse during the trial. He told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that he did not approve of that.
“I threw them out of the room several times,” he said on Friday. Richards said this was not directed toward Fox News in particular. He said he did not think a film crew was “appropriate for something like this.”
“But the people who were raising the money to pay for the experts and to pay for the attorneys were trying to raise money and that was part of it,” he said, referring to the crowd-funded defense. “So I think–I don’t want to say an evil–but a definite distraction was part of it, and I didn’t approve of it, but I’m not always the boss.”
A Tucker Carlson TV crew has been embedded with Kyle Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse attorney Mark Richards tells @ChrisCuomo that he was against it: “I did not approve of that. I threw them out of the room several times…” pic.twitter.com/IrQwyLmID5
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) November 20, 2021
Rittenhouse’s family and his advisor were making calls on who had access, Richards said. Cuomo asked the attorney if he was worried about Rittenhouse becoming “an agent of animus” and “stooge of that fringe of our political spectrum.” Richards said he spoke to his client, but he only described that discussion in general terms.
“Kyle is going to have some hard choices in his life about the direction he goes and what he stands for,” he said. “Those will have to be made by Kyle eventually, and as Corey and I told him yesterday while we were waiting along for the verdict, he needs to learn how to take responsibility and to tell people no.”
[Screenshot via Fox News]
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