Radical right media and legal figures are embracing and defending Kyle Rittenhouse, the Antioch teen charged with a double murder in Kenosha, Wisconsin, who is now in custody in a Vernon Hills juvenile detention facility.
Influential commentators with mass followings, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin and Tucker Carlson, have all spoken out in support of Rittenhouse, who is accused of taking matters into his own hands as a sort of citizen soldier when he allegedly shot three people protesting the police shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake, killing two of them.
“I would describe him as a Minute Man,” one of Rittenhouse’s lawyers, John Pierce, told the Chicago Sun-Times on Sunday, a reference to the militia best known for fighting during the American Revolution. Pierce is also leading a Rittenhouse defense fundraising drive through a newly formed foundation.
Pierce also told the Sun-Times he will wage a legal battle to prevent Rittenhouse’s extradition to Wisconsin from Illinois. The next step is a Sept. 25 hearing before a Lake County judge.
“We are considering our options but at this time we do not intend to waive extradition from Illinois to Wisconsin,” said Pierce.
A “serious concern” is that in Wisconsin, Rittenhouse would be considered an adult, and locking him up among adults would be “too dangerous for him. At this time we believe Illinois has a public policy interest in protecting its children,” Pierce said.
Pierce foresees a costly legal battle.
“If this case goes through trial and appeal, it will be millions of dollars for sure,” Pierce said.
Speaking from north suburban Vernon Hills, Pierce, based in Los Angeles, said he is booked to appear on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show on Monday night to discuss the Rittenhouse case.
He may be able to see the youth at the Lake County facility earlier Monday.
The politics behind the case
The Rittenhouse episode has added another complex — and highly political — dimension to the volatile events unfolding in Kenosha, coming as President Donald Trump is stepping up his “law and order” messaging to voters and accusing Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden of being the captive of a radical left.
Trump is poised to travel to the crucial swing state Tuesday to meet with local law enforcement and inspect damage in Kenosha.
On Monday in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Biden will deliver a speech asking, “Are you safe in Donald Trump’s America?” to remind voters the upheaval in cities and violence is coming on Trump’s watch.
The Kenosha protests were sparked after a white police officer shot the Evanston-raised Blake, who is Black, at least seven times in the back on Aug. 23 as he was getting into a car where three of his young children were in a back seat.
Rittenhouse, 17, who is white, showed up at a Kenosha protest on Aug. 25 slinging a Smith and Wesson AR-15-style rifle. After he allegedly shot two people to death and wounded another, a photo showed how Kenosha police ignored him as he walked down a street with his hands up. He later surrendered to the Antioch police.
That police overlooked Rittenhouse seems a vivid example of real-time white privilege.
Pierce said Rittenhouse acted in self-defense. He said Rittenhouse did not transport the rifle from Illinois to Wisconsin but declined to comment on specifics regarding permits. Wisconsin allows loaded weapons to be openly carried.
Machine springs to life
Given the turmoil in Portland, Chicago and other cities, activists on the right quickly took up Rittenhouse’s case as a cause bigger than the murders he is accused of.
A Rittenhouse legal defense, fundraising and media machine sprang to life.
Pierce will be a Rittenhouse lead lawyer along with Lin Wood, who, like Pierce, takes on high-profile conservative cases.
On Aug. 12, Pierce and Wood filed papers with the Texas secretary of state creating the FightBack Foundation Inc.
“For too long, the fake news media have lied and attacked conservatives without accountability. That’s where we come in. We bring lawsuits to check the lies of the left,” the foundation said on its website.
Wood was on the legal team representing Nicholas Sandmann, the high school student who sued several news outlets over reporting about him. Last week, Sandmann assailed the media in a Republican National Convention speech.
Pierce’s firm has represented Rudy Giuliani and former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Coulter in a tweet said she wanted Rittenhouse as “my president.” Carlson on his show said, “How shocked are we that 17-year-olds with rifles decided they had to maintain order when no one else would?”
Malkin, a self-described “vocal” advocate for Rittenhouse, summed up the radical right frame when she said in a Saturday tweet, “ALL THE BEST PEOPLE #StandWithKyle. It’s now or never . . . and, yes, it’s war.”
Benjamin Crump, the lawyer representing the Blake family, also represents the families of the murdered Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.