After a Wisconsin jury found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty of murder on Friday, there was an outpouring of false claims by colleges, journalists, and progressive politicians about the facts of the case. Many wrongly claimed that Rittenhouse killed unarmed black men, when he in fact killed two white men in self defense. And they falsely claimed that he shot the men during protests over the police killing of Jacob Blake, when Blake is in fact alive.
Virginia's James Madison University peddled a claim that Rittenhouse was charged “with murdering and taking away two beautiful Black lives,” even though each of the people Rittenhouse shot in self-defense were white, and he killed no black people. The claim was part of an activist's video, posted on the university's Instagram account, that implied Rittenhouse is a murderer. It called the verdict “disgusting”: “We scream Black Lives Matter but it doesn’t matter enough for these people who are in power, the jury, the judge, anybody, to charge this man with murdering and taking away two beautiful Black lives at the ripe ages of 26 and 36. It’s disgusting,” said the activist.
Rittenhouse was charged with murder, but found not guilty by a Wisconsin jury, as a matter of self-defense. The two men whose lives he was charged with “taking away” were Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum. Their ages were indeed 26 and 36, but they were white, not black. Each had a serious criminal record. Rosenbaum was convicted of multiple accounts of sexual contact with a minor. A judge had also been asked to revoke his probation. He was out on bond over a domestic abuse charge. Huber had been convicted in a strangulation case and recently was charged with domestic abuse. Rittenhouse also shot another white man, Gaige Grosskreutz, after Grosskreutz raised his handgun at him. Grosskreutz survived.
Even though all the people Rittenhouse shot were white, a leading newspaper claimed Rittenhouse "shot three black men." The Independent wrote: “Full story: teenager who shot three black men with rifle found not guilty on all charges…Republican politicians celebrate as jury acquits Kenosha shooter.” Other newspapers and media in many countries also falsely reported that the people shot by Rittenhouse were black, including in America, Brazil, England, Israel, and Holland. That includes Brazil’s biggest newspaper.
In its Sunday edition, the Detroit Free Press erroneously wrote that in "August 2020, Jacob Blake was shot and killed by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, sparking protests against racism and police brutality." But Blake is alive, and he wasn't shot due to racism or police brutality. Prosecutors found that his shooting was justified, and the Biden administration declined to bring a civil-rights case over the shooting, finding insufficient evidence of a civil-rights violation.
The University of California at Irvine also left the misleading impression that Rittenhouse killed black people, wrongly claiming the Rittenhouse verdict was a manifestation of “systemic racism” that said “Black lives” don’t “matter,” even though none of the people shot by Rittenhouse were black, and he only shot people he reasonably viewed as threatening him. “Are universities supposed to” take positions on jury verdicts “half a continent away”? No, that’s inappropriate, says law professor Eugene Volokh. But that's what the University of California at Irvine did.
Progressive politicians also got basic facts wrong, such as falsely claiming police had killed Blake. As John Sexton notes at Hot Air, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Sean Patrick Maloney released the following statement after Rittenhouse was found not guilty: “It’s disgusting and disturbing that someone was able to carry a loaded assault rifle into a protest against the unjust killing of Jacob Blake, an unarmed black man, and take the lives of two people and injure another — and face absolutely no consequences.”
As Sexton points out, there are “two very basic errors in” Maloney’s “first sentence. Jacob Blake isn’t dead and, by his own admission, he wasn’t unarmed….How do you make a mistake like that in the first place? The best you can say is that the DCCC wasn’t alone. The same mistake got made last night on ESPN.” NBC Sports also “published this false claim yesterday. It’s still up and not corrected as I write this. Yahoo News made the same claim.” Likewise, ABC News’ Terry Moran was talking Friday "about the ‘police killing’ of Jacob Blake,” which never occurred, as you can see from this video.
MSNBC erroneously referred to the “late Jacob Blake,” in referring to Maya Wiley's discussion on MSNBC about Jacob Blake being killed by police as the context in which the Rittenhouse shootings supposedly happened. In a video, Maya Wiley “states that the police killed Jacob Blake. That must be news to the very much alive Jacob Blake,” notes Twitter user and YouTuber Nuance Bro.
Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. He also once worked in the Education Department.