From the first reports out of Kenosha, Wisconsin, when Kyle Rittenhouse defended himself by shooting three assailants during the Black Lives Matter riots of August 2020, I've looked at this entire, gut-wrenching affair with the eyes of a father.
Of course, I recognized that Rittenhouse appeared to have acted in self-defense based on the video evidence that surfaced within days of the incident. But, to me, this story was not the epic Second Amendment debate or divisive racial scream-fest cable news and social media demanded it to be.
To me, this story was and still is about a 17-year-old boy.
I saw it this way because I have a 17-year-old boy.
As Kyle's life was threatened that night with multiple, life-threatening assaults, and as his freedom was threatened with trumped-up, politicized murder charges levied against him to appease the race-baiting caucus of the Democratic Party, I still could only think of his parents and wonder what they were going through and what they wish their son would have done differently.
Monday morning, I had the opportunity to find that out.
On my morning talk show "O'Connor & Company" on WMAL in Washington, DC, my co-host Julie Gunlock and I interviewed Kyle's mom, Wendy Rittenhouse.
Wendy could've approached our conversation in many different ways.
Given the current state of instant celebrity in our political and media culture, one would expect her to have lionized her son and held him up to be a political hero and martyr worthy of undying praise, a cable news contract, and a bright future as an elected official.
I'm not kidding. When a figure like Rittenhouse is thrust into the public the way he has been, there are advisors and handlers who would whisper all sorts of things in his and his mother's ears. "With his name recognition and his political support as a champion of the Second Amendment, he could be on the fast-track for Congress and eventually the Senate!"
Remember Sandra Fluke? After her made-for-TV testimony in 2012 complaining that she had to pay for her own contraception (she was attending Georgetown Law at the time), she became a media sensation. Next came a speaking appearance at Obama's Democratic Convention and a run for the state legislature in California.
She lost in the primary because she really didn't offer much as a candidate other than her 15 minutes of political fame, but she serves as a perfect example of how this sort of 24/7 notoriety can be spun into an ill-advised political career.
Thankfully, this doesn't seem to be the track Mr. Rittenhouse is on. At least, based on my conversation with Wendy.
She didn't prop her son up as a hero (even though I'm sure in her heart that's exactly what he is to her), and she didn't paint him to be a victim or a martyr. She didn't celebrate the events that thrust him into the spotlight, and she didn't even suggest that she was proud of her son for venturing into the "fiery but peaceful" protests that burned much of Kenosha to a crisp that hot August night.
Wendy Rittenhouse spoke of her son Kyle the exact way you or I would've related to our sons if, God forbid, they'd found themselves in the same situation. She talked like a mom. A scared and freaked-out mom who wishes her son – no matter how noble and courageous his intentions may have been – would never have gone to Kenosha in the first place.
Wendy Rittenhouse, mother of Kyle Rittenhouse, joined @LarryOConnor today for an exclusive interview to discuss the night in Kenosha, the media's coverage of her son and more #Rittenhouse #WMAL— WMAL DC (@WMALDC) December 20, 2021
Full interview: https://t.co/gGpzcm6Yk7 pic.twitter.com/JuwTSPChma
"I think about it every day," she told us of that night. "I should've went (sic) down there and grabbed him by his ear."
Julie and I chuckled with obvious recognition at such a "mom" thing to say. "Every parent knows what that means," my co-host said in the interview.
"Yeah, and told him to get his butt in the car, you know?" the charming Midwesterner said. "But you can't change the past."
I couldn't stop smiling.
From the very beginning, I held to some very important and, I thought, obvious realities about the Rittenhouse story. He did nothing wrong. He didn't break the law. He acted in self-defense. If he had been convicted of murder, it would've been an outrageous and despicable miscarriage of justice... and, most importantly, given all of those things, I would've prayed my son wouldn't have been anywhere in that town that night.
I know I'm probably not winning any fans by saying that we should not want our teenage boys to follow Kyle's example and head down to the nearest race riot with a rifle. I know it's fashionable to say we need more Kyles in this country doing just that.
But Kyle is not your son. He's Wendy's son. And she wanted to grab him by the ear and get his butt home. And Wendy has every right to wish that for her son.
Don't thrust Kyl Rittenhouse into a position that you wish him to fill for your own political satisfaction. Leave Wendy's son alone... he's been through enough.
Listen to the entire interview right here... I think you'll enjoy it: