Moments after a jury returned a “not guilty” verdict for Kyle Rittenhouse on Friday, Sen. Tom Cotton called on President Joe Biden to publicly apologize to Rittenhouse after Biden put out a campaign ad last year that characterized the then-17-year-old Rittenhouse as a “white supremacist.”
Cotton tweeted, “Joe Biden needs to publicly apologize to Kyle Rittenhouse.”
In September 2020, Biden tweeted a political attack ad claiming then-President Donald Trump had refused to condemn white supremacists violence. The campaign ad featured footage from a 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia as well as Rittenhouse’s image from the night he fatally shot two men and wounded a third.
Biden tweeted, “There’s no other way to put it: the President of the United States refused to disavow white supremacists on the debate stage last night.”
On Aug. 25, 2020, Rittenhouse joined a group of armed citizens defending a trio of car dealerships amid ongoing riots in the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin following the police shooting of a black man named Jacob Blake. Throughout the night, Rittenhouse put out fires started at and around the dealerships and offered first aid to people in the crowds on the streets that night. Rittenhouse was armed with an AR-15 style rifle that night.
While Rittenhouse went to put out a fire at one of the dealerships, a man by the name of Joseph Rosenbaum chased Rittenhouse through the used-car lot, threw a bag at him and eventually caught up to Rittenhouse and reached for his rifle. As Rosenbaum reached for the rifle, Rittenhouse shot four times, killing his pursuer.
In the moments after shooting Rosenbaum, members of the crowd began chasing after Rittenhouse who ran in the direction of a nearby police line. As he ran towards police, multiple pursuers attacked Rittenhouse and he fell to the ground. After falling to the ground, a man, Anthony Huber, swung a skateboard at Rittenhouse’s head and grabbed for the rifle before Rittenhouse fired another shot, fatally wounding Huber.
After that point, a third individual, Gaige Grosskreutz, approached Rittenhouse and pointed a handgun at him as Rittenhouse sat up from the ground. As Grosskreutz pointed his handgun at Rittenhouse, Rittenhouse fired, wounding Grosskreutz in the arm.
Rittenhouse claimed self-defense in the shooting incidents, but he was ultimately charged with first-degree intentional homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, and possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under the age of 18. The latter charge was ordered dropped by Judge Bruce Schroeder on Monday.
On Friday, after a two-week trial in which prosecutors presented their case against Rittenhouse and Rittenhouse’s lawyers presented his case for self-defense, a jury returned a not-guilty verdict on all remaining five charges. At no point during the trial was any evidence presented that Rittenhouse was motivated by white supremacist ideology.
Earlier this week, after the prosecution and defense both rested their cases, Fox News reporter Peter Doocy questioned White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki about Biden’s comments about Rittenhouse and asked whether Biden made those comments in an effort to win votes in the 2020 election. Psaki said she wouldn’t comment on the case but said Biden opposes “vigilantes patrolling our communities with assault weapons” and “opportunists corrupting peaceful protests by rioting and burning down the communities they claim to represent.”
Biden did release a prepared statement following Friday’s “not-guilty” verdict.
“While the verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken,” Biden said. “I ran on a promise to bring Americans together, because I believe that what unites us is far greater than what divides us. I know that we’re not going to heal our country’s wounds overnight, but I remain steadfast in my commitment to do everything in my power to ensure that every American is treated equally, with fairness and dignity, under the law.
“I urge everyone to express their views peacefully, consistent with the rule of law. Violence and destruction of property have no place in our democracy. The White House and Federal authorities have been in contact with [Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’s] office to prepare for any outcome in this case, and I have spoken with the Governor this afternoon and offered support and any assistance needed to ensure public safety.”