Bari Weiss dismantles media’s falsehoods on Kyle Rittenhouse: This was a ‘disinformation campaign’

Substack journalist Bari Weiss tore into the media over its inaccurate coverage of the Kyle Rittenhouse case. 

“Here is what I thought was true about Kyle Rittenhouse during the last days of August 2020 based on mainstream media accounts: The 17-year-old was a racist vigilante. I thought he drove across state lines, to Kenosha, Wisc., with an illegally acquired semi-automatic rifle to a town to which he had no connection. I thought he went there because he knew there were Black Lives Matter protests and he wanted to start a fight. And I thought that by the end of the evening of August 25, 2020, he had done just that, killing two peaceful protestors and injuring a third… It turns out that account was mostly wrong,” Weiss began her piece Wednesday. 

“Unless you’re a regular reader of independent reporting… you would have been served a pack of lies about what happened during those terrible days in Kenosha. And you would have been shocked over the past two weeks as the trial unfolded in Wisconsin as every core claim was undermined by the evidence of what actually happened that night,” Weiss added. 

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The “Common Sense” writer slammed the “disinformation campaign” pushed by the media and Democratic lawmakers “for the sake of an expedient political narrative—a narrative that asked people to believe, among other unrealities, that blocks of burning buildings somehow constituted peaceful protests.”

She pointed to the infamous CNN graphic that read “FIERY BUT MOSTLY PEACEFUL PROTESTS” as its correspondent reporting from Kenosha last year stood in front of a fire set by rioters. 

She then took a swipe at a tweet written by Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., which read, “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.” Weiss claimed the tweet summarized “the mainstream position” of Rittenhouse. 

“But just as in the cases of Covington Catholic’s Nick Sandmann or Jussie Smollet or the ‘Russia-collusion’ narrative, almost none of the details holding up that politically convenient position (boys in MAGA hats are bigoted; racism is as much a blight as it has always been; Trump conspired with Putin) were true,” Weiss wrote. 

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Weiss then dismantled the false claims that were pushed by the media from the declaration that Rittenhouse is a “white supremacist,” something she said there was “zero evidence” to support, the notion that he had no ties to Kenosha, where he worked and his father lived, to the claim he “crossed state lines,” which he did for his job the night before the shootings. 

And last but not least, “there’s no clear indication that Rittenhouse sought to kill anyone.”

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“In the aftermath of the media frenzy around the Covington Catholic story at least there were some mea culpas from the mainstream press, some sense of shame, some desire to get the egg off their faces. But with rare exception, it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting that here,” Weiss predicted.

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The former New York Times opinion editor then roasted MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough for claiming as recently as last week Rittenhouse “drove across state — had his mother drive him across state lines—he appointed himself a militia member, he goes around and he ends up unloading, what, sixty rounds.” 

She also took aim at CNN’s Bakari Sellars for making similar claims as well as the falsehood that Rittenhouse was the only person to shoot a gun that night. 

“To admit that the press, in the main, got just about every key fact in the Rittenhouse case wrong — that he crossed state lines with a gun, that he had the gun illegally, that he had no connection to Kenosha, that he was connected to white supremacist groups — has nothing to do with whether Kyle Rittenhouse should have gone to Kenosha that day. It has nothing to do with where one stands on the question of open carry… Or whether or not a teenager should be allowed to walk around with a semiautomatic rifle,” Weiss wrote. “No teenager should have been walking around the chaos in Kenosha with a semiautomatic rifle that night. Still, doing so does not forfeit your right to self-defense.”

The “Honestly” podcast host went on to insist the “tragedy” that led to two deaths and another injured “could have been avoided” if Wisconsin maintained the rule of law.

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“It did not help that in many places last summer cities and police forces indicated or explicitly said they wouldn’t defend people’s property from destruction or burglary during the unrest. And it didn’t help our understanding of what transpired on August 25 that we were told repeatedly by national media outlets that there weren’t riots, and there wasn’t violence in Kenosha that night until Kyle Rittenhouse discharged his weapon. We could all see the blocks of burning buildings with our own eyes,” Weiss wrote. 

She continued, “To acknowledge the facts of what happened that night is not political. It is simply to acknowledge reality. It is to say that facts are still facts and that lies are lies. It is to insist that mob justice is not justice. It is to say that media consensus is not the equivalent of due process. And that pretending otherwise for the sake of political expediency is why the National Guard is now standing watch in Kenosha, bracing for violence once again in the anticipation of a verdict that for many, has already been decided.”

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