INSIDE THE RIGHT’S RUSH TO DEFEND RITTENHOUSE
Right-wing media and legal figures are embracing case of 17-year-old from Antioch accused of killing 2 in Kenosha
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 Evanstonraised 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.
Sports is the same thing happening over and over. Teams meet, agitate a ball, which is thrown and caught. Tossed through a hoop or hit with a bat. Sometimes kicked. There’s also hockey.
I am not insulting sports fans, mind you. I understand that for them, sports is the hub on which the universe spins. It just isn’t my table. The night the Cubs won the World Series in 2016, I attended a lecture at the Field Museum on tattooing in Polynesia. I was not alone.
Sports is the same thing happening over and over.
To me. Generally. But not always. Occasionally, something noteworthy happens. Something will transpire in the world of sports so seismic that even I perceive it, like a deaf person sensing the orchestra by vibrations through the floor.
Last Wednesday, the Milwaukee Bucks announced they wouldn’t play their first round playoff game against the Magic. Not with Kenosha roiled nightly with unrest over the shooting of Jacob Blake.
The NBA didn’t count the game as a forfeit but picked up the series three days later. The rest of the NBA, even some baseball teams joined in. Now they’re talking about using basketball arenas as polling places. That seems significant.
The Right erupted in anguish. “LeBron is just trying to outwoke the rest of the NBA. Clear negotiation ploy,” said Fox Sports Radio’s Clay Travis. Military displays are fine; that isn’t politics, that’s patriotism.
But should those who actually play the game try to use their considerable influence to help others, they’re told to shut up and stay out of politics.
Sports is always political. Even when Black athletes couldn’t play, it was political. Whites just didn’t know it. The exclusion of minorities was not ethical, certainly not athletic. It was political. Changing that was political, too, and started long before Jackie Robinson. In 1910, heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson faced Jim Jeffries, “The Great White Hope.”
The New York Times saw what was at stake: “If the black man wins, thousands and thousands of his ignorant brothers will misinterpret his victory as justifying claims to much more than mere physical equality with their white neighbors,” it editorialized. Political.
Johnson did win, and violent white backlash rippled across the country. Political. Then as now, violence was wrong when Black people did it, but by white people, it was justice. The film of the fight was banned. Former President Teddy Roosevelt, a boxing fan, urged the public to “guarantee that this is the last prize fight to take place in the United States.” What good is a sport a Black man can win? They didn’t call it cancel culture then. Political.
The three top heavyweight boxers of the 20th century — all with strong Chicago ties — are a quick course on how sports forced white racial attitudes to change. Johnson was unapologetic and hated. Sent to prison for dating white women, he was hung in effigy at State and Walton in 1912.
After Johnson lost to Jess Willard in 1915, another Black man wasn’t permitted a shot at the title for 22 years, for fear of creating another Jack Johnson. Political. Joe Louis’ manager finagled his championship fight at Comiskey Park in 1937 by making sure Louis maintained a modest, low-key demeanor — he was apologetic and loved, or at least accepted.
The third champion was Muhammad Ali — unapologetic and loved, though not when he refused the draft in 1966. Stripped of his title, vilified. His Chicago bout canceled. Political.
America caught up to Ali, the way it’s catching up to Colin Kaepernick. He became a model of courageous refusal, a template for what is happening now. Ali is the reason the superlative reputation of Michael Jordan, for all his competitiveness and athleticism, curdled over time. He didn’t want to jeopardize shoe sales.
Sports often leads. Major league baseball integrated in 1947. Harry Truman ended racial discrimination in the Army in 1948. Those two events are not unrelated.
Ask yourself: Why did every NBA player go along with last week’s actions, even though many of them never protested racial injustice in their lives? Answer: Because they’re teammates. They’re on the same team and have to support each other in order to win.
That’s a valuable lesson at this chaotic, divided national moment. Maybe there’s more to this sports stuff than I thought.
A video frame allegedly showing Antioch teen Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha last week.
An image from video allegedly showing the Kenosha shooting incident involving Antioch teen Kyle Rittenhouse.