The clock started ticking on August 25, 2020. Amidst widespread rioting, looting and arson in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha Wisconsin, shots were fired that resulted in the deaths of two protesters and serious injury to a third.
Behind the trigger was Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old native of Antioch Ill., who had arrived earlier that day with a Smith & Wesson MP-15 rifle, seeking to protect businesses that had been under siege for the prior 48 hours.
As if a starting pistol had been fired — the race was on. Media outlets and politicians immediately began pushing incendiary storylines, further inflaming tensions.
The prevailing story: Kyle Rittenhouse, a vigilante white supremacist, had gone to Kenosha to hunt down peaceful protesters.
The left leaning publication The Intercept ran an article labeling Rittenhouse an “armed, pro-Trump fanatic” who “chose to travel to Kenosha, Wisconsin, and hunt down anti-racist protesters.” That piece made clear to the reader that Rittenhouse wasn’t Black or a “person of color”; referring to him as “white” over 16 times in the article.
David Leavitt, a self-proclaimed left-wing pundit, tweeted “If you’re defending Kyle Rittenhouse you might just be a white supremacist.”
But the media wasn’t alone in these excesses. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., part of the so-called “squad,” took aim at Rittenhouse calling him a “white supremacist domestic terrorist.”
Additionally, Congresswoman Gwen Moore, D-Wisc., claimed that Kenosha Police “let an armed white supremacist walk right past them after shooting people.” Then-presidential candidate Joe Biden even ran an ad against President Donald Trump portraying Rittenhouse as the face of the white supremacy movement.
Cases like these reinforce what many already know about the left: They seek out stories to exploit for political gain, often before the facts are out.
Building a false narrative is an effective tool to galvanize support and drive voters to the ballot box. In this case, it seems to have worked. Prosecutors rushed to indict Kyle Rittenhouse, ultimately overcharging him in their haste.
Joe Biden defeated President Trump in part by tying him to “white supremacists” such as Rittenhouse. Shortly thereafter, a January 2021 nationwide survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs showed that almost half of Democrat respondents believed “militant far right extremist groups” and “violent white nationalist groups” in the United States posed the largest threat to national security — over the likes of China, Russia, North Korea and ISIS.
Fast forward 14 months, and the Rittenhouse trial is complete. Both the defense and the prosecutors have made their case and the left’s narrative has all but collapsed in the courtroom. It looks likely that Rittenhouse may walk away conviction free after Judge Schroeder dismissed the charge for carrying a dangerous weapon while under the age of 18.
We know now that all the people who were shot that day were white, and video footage has shown clearly that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense after being pursued by violent protesters, was struck with a skateboard, as another brandished a firearm toward him.
In other words, a 17-year-old boy was miscast as a white supremacist for over a year by the media and elites in Washington based on almost no evidence.
Tragically, the media may have won this race. Despite the mountains of evidence that may ultimately vindicate Rittenhouse, Justin Blake — the uncle of Jacob Blake — tells all who will listen that Kyle is guilty and that even an acquittal only “shows that you can shoot Caucasians who support us” and “ride down every African-American community and just have fun, like you’re going hunting or something.”
Sadly, there are many people who will believe this lie. How, after all the evidence and facts that have been presented at the trial, can people believe this to be true? How can they continue to believe Kyle Rittenhouse is a white supremacist?
The answer is clear: In today’s America, the facts do not matter as much as the story.
If Kyle Rittenhouse is acquitted of his charges, we can only hope the aftermath doesn’t result in a similar turn of events as the protest over Jacob Blake’s shooting did.
Rather than feed this cycle — the media would serve America well by telling her the truth. Because if America burns again, there is only one winner: division and further separation.
Horace Cooper is a legal commentator and Co-Chair of the Black Leadership Network Project 21. Previously a visiting assistant professor of law at George Mason University School of Law, his research focus was on U.S. intellectual property rights policy, the role of the United States Supreme Court in the American constitutional system, political forecasting, the legislative process, and federal labor law. Mr. Cooper has also served in senior capacities in the George W. Bush Administration including at the Voice of America and in the Department of Labor under then Secretary Elaine Chao, and on Capitol Hill as Counsel to former Majority Leader Richard K. Armey. He is the author of "How Trump is Making Black America Great Again." Read Horace Cooper's Reports — More Here.
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