After Kyle Rittenhouse shot three men, killing two, during riots in Kenosha, Wisc. on August 25, 2020, mainstream media, politicians and pundits ran endless stories and made countless comments about Rittenhouse's intentions, claiming that he was a murderous white supremacist who acted not out of self-defense, but from hate.
This was a collective misinformation campaign that was built and carried along by each social media post and article that made unverified claims about the shooter, his actions, and the riots themselves. Rittenhouse was vilified without proof, the riots were called "fiery but mostly peaceful," and those who spread these lies, from the current president, to sitting members of the US Congress, to legacy media outlets, faced no penalty from any fact-checkers or "misinformation specialists."
On Tuesday, Gaige Grosskreutz, one of the men who was shot by Rittenhouse testified in his trial, stating that Rittenhouse only turned to defend himself after he was pursued by armed men, and only fired his weapon after Grosskreutz raised his own handgun against Rittenhouse. The same media outlets that upheld Rittenhouse as a white supremacist and domestic terrorist have now run headlines trying to spin Grosskreutz testimony into something other than a clear defense of Rittenhouse as having acted in self-defense.
The testimony given by Grosskreutz was as the prosecution's witness. It was revealed that Anthony Huber, a man who was killed by Rittenhouse, was in pursuit of Rittenhouse and was using his skateboard as a weapon against him. Rittenhouse was on his butt in the street when he was attacked by men kicking him in the head. Grosskreutz said that he approached Rittenhouse with his gun drawn. He also said that he witnessed Rittenhouse being pursued by a mob.
Video from the night of the shootings showed this series of events, Rittenhouse sprawled in the street while men advanced on him, yet media, and even then-presidential candidate Joe Biden, remarked that his actions were white supremacist in nature. There was no evidence to suggest that Rittenhouse, whose goal had been to protect Kenosha from rioters, looters, and arsonists, was behaving in a racist manner, but that was of no concern to Democrats or pundits.
Joe Biden claimed Rittenhouse was a white supremacist who should be condemned, this without evidence, and prior to any due process Rittenhouse was entitled to. Biden was not happy enough to "disavow" Rittenhouse himself, but made hay about his opponent, then-President Donald Trump, not doing so.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) also condemned Rittenhouse without the benefit of any facts. He said that Rittenhouse "was working in tandem with police" as part of an "armed militia." That Rittenhouse was "working with police" is something that Grosskreutz reported at the time, but during the trial on Tuesday, said that though he thought he heard Rittenhouse say that he was working with police, what he actually heard was Rittenhouse saying that the was going to find the police after having shot Joseph Rosenbaum.
Bowman called Rittenhouse a domestic terrorist "looking to incite a race war," claiming that the act of "'Protecting public property' is cover for their agenda."
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) also claimed that Rittenhouse is a "domestic terrorist" who "executed two people," and said that Fox News' Tucker Carlson, in showing video from the night where Rittenhouse could be seen being pursued by a mob and defending himself was a "murderous rant" that has "inspired many mass shooters."
Massachusetts' Ayanna Pressley made similar, unfounded claims, saying that "A 17 year old white supremacist domestic terrorist drove across state lines, armed with an AR 15. He shot and killed 2 people who had assembled to affirm the value, dignity, and worth of Black lives."
"Fix your damn headlines," she commanded media outlets.
Social media platforms and crowdfunding sites also took up sides against Rittenhouse. GoFundMe pulled a fundraiser intended to help Rittenhouse pay legal fees. They refunded donations people had made to help him. GoFundMe said that the campaign for Rittenhouse violated their terms of service. GoFundMe had no problem leaving up legal fundraisers for Antifa militants. A police officer who donated to the campaign was fired over his $25 contribution. The officer had accompanied his anonymous donation with the message "You’ve done nothing wrong."
After Rittenhouse was barred from using crowdfunding sites to source funds for his legal defense, his team put together merch to sell to gain the required funds. This site, the Washington Post reported, was "also designed to personalize Rittenhouse and confirm the self-defense argument his criminal attorneys have outlined during prior court hearings." As though Rittenhouse didn't have a right to try to counter the media's claims against him as he neared his trial date.
Facebook banned posts that spoke in defense of Rittenhouse. "We've designated the shooting in Kenosha a mass murder and are removing posts in support of the shooter," Facebook said in a statement.
CNN's Joy Reid claimed that the two men Rittenhouse apparently shot in self-defense were "helpers" who were "brave young men who tried to stop the gunman before he shot them."
Media service Grabien put together a selection of media pundits claiming that Rittenhouse was a white supremacist, domestic terrorist, Trump-supporting, MAGA-inspired teen who went around Kenosha killing peaceful protestors.
And even after Grosskreutz testimony that he advanced on Rittenhouse with his gun drawn prior to being shot by the teen, the Associated Press ran a story on that testimony focusing on Grosskreutz fearing for his life.
Media outlets, politicians, and pundits who subscribe to a leftist, or Democrat, view of American politics, routinely are given a pass by fact-checkers and "misinformation" watchdogs. Presumably, fact-checkers and "misinformation" hacks assume that the pundits, politicians, and media outlets are acting in good faith—which is not a benefit of the doubt awarded to conservative media outlets or GOP politicians.
President Biden's post claiming that Rittenhouse is a white supremacist is still up. Reps. Bowman, Omar, and Pressley's posts are still up. There are no warning or misinformation labels slapped over their tweets, there are no Politifact, Washington Post, or Snopes fact checks. There are no campaigns to shut down MSNBC, CNN, or The New York Times as sites that spread disinformation. Instead, these outlets and politicians are allowed to roll with their perspective, based on scant facts or evidence, and their takes are allowed simply to stand.