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There's Been Continual Media Dishonesty in the Kyle Rittenhouse Trial

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Mark Hertzberg /Pool Photo via AP

This past Thursday, YouGov released a poll showing that 76% of Democrats thought Kyle Rittenhouse was guilty of homicide. Only 5% believed that he was not guilty.


Similarly, 69% of blacks thought he was guilty, and only 6% felt that he wasn’t.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, wrote on Twitter that the verdict is a “heartbreaking miscarriage of justice and sets a dangerous precedent which justifies federal review by DOJ.” President Biden, who famously called Rittenhouse a white supremacist, also expressed Democrats’ anger: “While the verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken.”

By contrast, 65% of Republicans didn’t think that he was guilty.

I closely listened to the trial and consistently saw the prosecution’s witnesses make the clear case that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense. I have a hard time understanding how anyone could think that he was guilty of going to Kenosha to purposefully murder people.

Unfortunately, the polarization over the Kyle Rittenhouse trial is pretty easy to explain.

There's the relatively benign if misleading reports on Friday by ABC, CBS, & NBC Evening News broadcasts announcing the verdict. All three outlets called the riots “protests” and avoided saying anything about Rittenhouse being attacked before using his gun. NBC at least went as far as saying that there were “protests and unrest.”

Others went much farther. On MSNBC, Rutgers Professor Brittney Cooper claimed: “Today what we were told was that white self-defense trumps everybody else’s sense of safety and protection. Even when white folks are carrying the gun and they are under no threat at all. As Kyle Rittenhouse admitted himself, he was not threatened. He didn’t think that there was a threat. He came there to intimidate, and he was allowed to do so.”


Of course, Rittenhouse said no such thing. He clearly said how he was threatened and in fear of his life. He never even remotely implied that he came there to intimidate anyone. But the other guest on MSNBC agreed with Cooper, and the host never contradicted her.

Another speaker on MSNBC feared: “The first thing that occurred to me after this ruling is oh, well, okay, now it’s open season. Like, if I’m walking around and I’m a white nationalist, coward little kid with an AR-15, and I see someone drive by with a Black Lives Matter bumper sticker and I feel threatened, I can open fire. If I go by a youth group chanting standing outside the local Target and I feel threatened, I can open fire.”

On CNN, Van Jones warned of “white vigilante violence … there is a group of people that thinks they have the right to take the law into their own hand.” 

Those were all claims made after the trial.

On MSNBC during the trial, Joe Scarborough falsely claimed that Rittenhouse fired 60 shots, or Joy Reid claimed Rittenhouse drove four hours with his AR-15 to get to Kenosha. Of course, Rittenhouse’s apartment in Antioch, Illinois, is only 21 miles from Kenosha. The AR-15 wasn’t Rittenhouse’s, but a friend’s who lives in Kenosha. Never mentioned in the media, Rittenhouse’s father and grandparents live in Kenosha, and he spent much of his time there.

Not only were the “protests” actually violent riots, but there was also something that the mainstream media did not want Americans to know. The part of the Kenosha that Kyle Rittenhouse was protecting was “the poor, multi-racial commercial district, full of small, underinsured cell phone shops and car lots.” Is that where “white supremacists” go to help people? 


How do we know that the media knew that? A former reporter for the New York Times, Nellie Bowles, put up a post at Substack that discussed the bias in reporting on the riots. Bowles writes the paper sent her to report on the “mainstream liberal argument … that burning down businesses for racial justice was both good and healthy. Burnings allowed for the expression of righteous rage, and the businesses all had insurance to rebuild.”

“It turned out to be not true,” Bowles wrote. “The part of Kenosha that people burned in the riots was the poor, multi-racial commercial district, full of small, underinsured cell phone shops and car lots. It was very sad to see and to hear from people who had suffered.”

Bowles said she filed her story, and editors told her it would not run until after the election, citing “space, timing, tweaks,” according to her post. The piece eventually ran after Joe Biden won the election, Bowles said. “Whatever the reason for holding the piece, covering the suffering after the riots was not a priority,” she wrote. “The reality that brought Kyle Rittenhouse into the streets was one we reporters were meant to ignore.”

Is it any wonder that we have celebrities like Rosanna Arquette tweeting out: “I don’t want to live in a country that is ruled by violent ignorant racists.” Or Samantha Bee claiming: “Acquitting Kyle Rittenhouse sends a message to future Kyle Rittenhouses that they're free to incite violence and then claim self-defense.”

People who closely follow ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, Public TV, New York Times, and Washington Post think they are well informed. But they are protected from hearing important facts. Is the media accurate to call it “protests” when people destroyed over $50 million in property? In a town where the average home is worth $207,397, that is the equivalent of completely destroying 241 homes. Of course, the riot occurred in a relatively poorer area.


As Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz called the reporting “smears” “media malpractice.”

Kurtz described the media narrative as Kyle Rittenhouse as “a symbol of armed white people run amok.”

The mainstream media is denying people basic truth.

Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author of “More Guns, Less Crime” (University of Chicago Press, third edition, 2010). Until January, Lott was the senior adviser for research and statistics at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Policy.

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