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Rittenhouse Accuses Biden Of Defamation In First Post-Acquittal Interview

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Days after jurors in Wisconsin found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty in a closely-watched homicide trial, the 18-year-old criticized pundits and politicians — including President Joe Biden — for how they discussed his case, part of a lengthy Monday night interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

Key Facts

Rittenhouse argued he acted in self-defense when he fatally shot two people and injured a third during a chaotic August 2020 protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and insisted his case isn’t political or racial.

He told Carlson commentators have spread “lies” about his case and unfairly cast him as a racist, and he said he supports the Black Lives Matter movement and the right to peacefully protest.

Rittenhouse took particular issue with Biden, who included a photo of the then-17-year-old in a September Twitter video urging former President Donald Trump to “disavow white supremacists” — an insinuation Rittenhouse called “actual malice, defaming my character.”

He also criticized his former lawyers Lin Wood and John Pierce, claiming he was “taken advantage [of]” and “used for a cause”: Rittenhouse said the two attorneys — who left his case months ago — allowed him to stay in pretrial jail for longer than necessary, set up media interviews he thinks were unwise and inaccurately implied he was a militia member.

Wood told the Daily Beast “somebody has fed Kyle misinformation” (Forbes has reached out to Wood and Pierce for comment).

Crucial Quote

“This case has nothing to do with race. It never had anything to do with race,” Rittenhouse said. “It had to do with the right to self-defense.”

Tangent

Carlson asked whether Rittenhouse intends to take action against the commentators he believes misrepresented his case, and Rittenhouse said his lawyers are handling the issue but he’s “hoping one day there will be … accountability for their actions.” He didn’t specify whether he’s mulling defamation lawsuits, an idea backed by some conservatives. Suing for defamation is often challenging in the United States because — according to the Supreme Court’s New York Times v. Sullivan ruling — public figures need to demonstrate not only that a statement is false, but that the speaker acted with “actual malice,” or reckless disregard for the truth.

Key Background

Jurors acquitted Rittenhouse on homicide and other charges Friday, closing out a weeks-long trial. Rittenhouse’s defense team argued he attended a nighttime protest — which was sparked by the police shooting of Black Kenosha resident Jacob Blake — because he wanted to protect a local business, and said he ultimately shot three people with a rifle because they threatened him, violently attacked him or reached for his gun. Meanwhile, prosecutors tried to cast Rittenhouse as a “wannabe soldier” who didn’t need to fire his gun. The case has drawn widespread attention for more than a year: Some conservatives have either backed Rittenhouse’s self-defense claims or outright praised him, while commentators on the left have portrayed him as a vigilante who unnecessarily inserted himself into the protest.

Surprising Fact

Rittenhouse’s current defense attorney, Mark Richards, has also criticized Pierce and Wood. After Friday’s not-guilty verdict, Richards called Wood an “idiot” in a CNN interview, and he told reporters Rittenhouse’s former legal team — whom he didn’t name — “wanted to use Kyle for a cause.”