Since Rittenhouse’s arrest, authorized protection funds have been shaped in his identify, right-wing commentators have blasted media protection for allegedly mishandling info of the case, memes depicting Rittenhouse as a hero — and even Captain America — have cropped up on Twitter, and T-shirts have been made with the silhouette of Rittenhouse taking pictures his gun with the phrases, “Don’t Tread on Me,” and “Free Kyle.” Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz supplied Rittenhouse an internship in Congress if acquitted.
Republican strategist Gregg Keller mentioned he may see a future wherein Rittenhouse turns into a featured speaker at the conservative confabs the place activists congregate. A CPAC invitation “wouldn’t shock me. … I believe there can be each effort made to show him into conservative hero,” Keller mentioned. “I believe given the state of affairs he discovered himself in, what he did seems to be justified — however I’d cease brief of lionizing him as a hero, a 17-year-old child who discovered himself in that state of affairs.”
Neither CPAC nor Turning Level USA commented on any potential invitation to Rittenhouse.
The trial of Rittenhouse, who confronted a number of felony prices for these deadly shootings in 2020, was the newest occasion to separate a deeply divided nation. Based on a brand new Economist/YouGov ballot, 76 p.c of Democrats believed Rittenhouse ought to have been discovered responsible of murder, whereas 65 p.c Republicans didn’t. The left has painted the teen as reckless and even racist for going to Kenosha armed with an AR-15 as violence erupted in the wake of Jacob Blake’s taking pictures at the palms of the Kenosha police.
The right, in response, largely and boisterously rallied round Rittenhouse. They argued that the media had mischaracterized his motives and the specifics of the case, largely by dismissing his claims that he feared for his life, was appearing in self-defense, and that the males killed have been white. Fox Information commentators like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity have devoted nightly monologues to blasting media protection of the Rittenhouse trial and defending the teen.
“That is what occurs when highly effective folks in the media, in Washington, in the swamp … rush to judgment,” Hannity mentioned. “And sadly, it occurs each single time again and again [with] the similar forged of characters. The media mob … get it incorrect and harmless folks … pay the value.”
Those self same commentators seized on a Joe Biden campaign tweet from over a 12 months in the past casting Rittenhouse as a white supremacist. White Home press secretary Jen Psaki mentioned she would not touch upon an ongoing trial or the president’s earlier phrases. She additionally didn’t remark instantly on the verdict.
The totality of developments led conservatives to not simply rally to Rittenhouse’s protection however painting him as a sufferer of a political hit job.
“Kyle is clearly harmless,” conservative activist Charlie Kirk instructed POLITICO. “However this trial is about extra than simply Kyle. It’s about the rule of legislation, it’s about the Structure, the 2nd Modification, and the right to defend your self when a violent mob is attacking you. It’s about whether or not an American citizen can be afforded an neutral jury of their friends that received’t cow to threats of riots in the event that they acquit an harmless man.”
Kirk introduced he could be interviewing Rittenhouse for his radio present and podcast in the coming days.
Rittenhouse’s lionization on the right has not been common. Some conservatives recoiled at the concept that they have been celebrating, what they noticed as, vigilantism. They’ve argued it’s “harmful” to color Rittenhouse as something however a teen whose reckless conduct resulted in the deaths of two males, and so they have cautioned that whereas Rittenhouse could have acted in self-defense, killings are nonetheless morally incorrect.
“Once you flip a silly younger man right into a hero, you’ll see extra silly younger males attempt to emulate his instance,” wrote conservative commentator David French in The Atlantic. “And though the state shouldn’t allow rioters to run rampant in America’s streets, random teams of armed Individuals are totally incapable of imposing order themselves, and any effort to take action can result in better dying and carnage.”
However these voices have been in the minority. Extra widespread has been a chorus that Rittenhouse has been a sufferer of media hysteria like others earlier than him. Kirk pointed to Supreme Courtroom Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Nick Sandmann, the Kentucky teen falsely accused of making an attempt to intimidate a Native American drummer at the Lincoln Memorial, as related instances of media “smear jobs.”
Sandmann’s case, specifically, seems to be instructive for Rittenhouse. He sued CNN and The Washington Publish for defamation and have become a trigger célèbre on the right for it. The lawsuits have been settled and Sandmann was ultimately invited to talk at the 2020 Republican Nationwide Conference, the place he warned about “cancel tradition.” In the days earlier than the Rittenhouse verdict, he penned a Daily Mail op-ed wherein he inspired the 18-year-old to sue for defamation. “Give it a shot and maintain the media accountable,” Sandmann wrote.