Joe Biden is accused of slandering acquitted killer Rittenhouse with supremacist link

Prominent Republicans have demanded President Joe Biden “publicly apologise” for suggesting the teenager acquitted of murdering two protesters in Wisconsin last year was a white supremacist.

eople across the US demonstrated after Kyle Rittenhouse (18) was cleared of all charges in a politically divisive case that has split America once again. The ruling sparked protests in cities across the country — from New York to Portland, Oregon — last Friday night.

Portland police declared a riot after protesters from a crowd of around 200 smashed the windows and doors of city facilities and hurled objects at police.

The city’s police chief said officers were preparing plans for the rest of the weekend.

Mr Biden said he, like “many Americans”, was “angry and concerned” at the verdict but appealed for calm.

However, Mr Biden is now under fire for linking Mr Rittenhouse to “white supremacist and militia groups” last year in a campaign video that attacked Donald Trump for failing to disavow the groups.

The video featured an image of the teenager brandishing his AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle during the protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August 2020 alongside footage of white nationalists marching in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Last Friday, a jury found Mr Rittenhouse not guilty of reckless and intentional homicide and other charges for killing Joseph Rosenbaum (36), Anthony Huber (26), and injuring Gaige Grosskreutz (now 28). They died during violent protests over the shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake, by a white Kenosha police officer last summer. 

After the teenager’s acquittal, Tom Cotton, a Republican senator for Arkansas, said Mr Biden had “slandered” the teenager.

“If he had any decency, Biden would apologise publicly — not attack the jury for following the law,” he said.

Mr Rittenhouse’s mother, Wendy, also accused Mr Biden of defaming her son.

“He is not a white supremacist. He is not a racist,” she said in a recent interview. President Biden doesn’t know my son.”

The comments were echoed by other prominent conservatives, such as the Fox News anchor Sean Hannity, who suggested the president could be guilty of defamation.

Mr Biden’s spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, has refused to comment on the video, saying: “What I can reiterate for you is the president’s view that we shouldn’t have, broadly speaking, vigilantes patrolling our communities with assault weapons.”

In his first comments since the verdict, Mr Rittenhouse said he was relieved that his “rough journey” had come to an end.

“The jury reached the correct verdict — self-defence is not illegal,” Mr Rittenhouse was quoted as saying by Fox News yesterday ahead of a tell-all interview to be shown tonight.

“I’m glad that everything went well… We made it through the hard part.”

Mr Rittenhouse’s lawyers have said the teenager now plans to become a nurse, although his family is likely to move from their home in Illinois after facing death threats.

The case has come to represent the nation’s polarisation, with both sides of the political divide using it to advance their competing narratives, in part because it arose from the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that swept the country last year and featured a controversial mix of guns, racial tensions and vigilantism.

Mr Rittenhouse has become a hero of the conservative right, who believe the teenager acted in self-defence while patriotically patrolling the streets while armed in the name of protecting private property.


© Telegraph Media Group Ltd (2021) 

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]

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