After the jury found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty on all counts Friday, support rapidly grew for him to file lawsuits for defamation against the broad group of media outlets and politicians who have amplified lies about him and called him a white supremacist ever since prosecutors rushed to file multiple charges against him.
Even after the verdict was rendered, national politicians and commentators have continued to call Rittenhouse a white supremacist. Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) said that the entire proceeding was “white supremacy in action,” including the judge and jury along with Rittenhouse. She said the “system isn’t built” for accountability, and that is why “Black and brown folks are brutalized” while “white supremacist murders walk free.
Joe Biden is among the countless political and media figures who had made similar comments before and after the verdict was rendered in Rittenhouse’s trial. As a presidential candidate, Biden quickly disparaged Rittenhouse immediately after the riots and shootings in Kenosha in August of last year.
Glenn Beck stated that he was ready to donate to a legal fund for Rittenhouse’s efforts to “sue the crap out of corporate media.” Beck added that it is time to say “enough is enough” regarding the corporate media. He goes on to say that Biden owed Rittenhouse an apology.
Sean Hannity said that Rittenhouse “should sue all of them, starting with Joe Biden.” Ann Coulter added that Biden has “no immunity” for defamatory statements he made when he was a private citizen running for office.
Nick Sandmann famously settled defamation lawsuits against CNN and the Washington Post with agreements providing for confidentiality. While he said that the decision rests with Rittenhouse, he told Fox News after the verdict was read that he would sue media members guilty of defamation if he were in his position.
Todd McMurtry, an attorney of Sandmann’s team, said Biden’s statements might be “actionable.” He said that Biden’s tweet in question appears to allege that Rittenhouse was using his rifle to act as a white supremacist.
Defamation cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute successfully. Zack Smith with the Heritage Foundation said that different standards depending on whether a claimant is a public figure or a private person. Public figures must show that a defendant acted with “actual malice” in making a false statement. The term “white supremacist” is also legally vague without a clear definition. Defamation typically only applies to false statements of fact, not statements of opinion about a person.