White House press secretary Jen Psaki refused on Monday to bend to criticism of President Joe Biden’s inclusion of Kyle Rittenhouse in a montage of images that played during a campaign video which criticised former President Donald Trump for refusing to condemn white supremacists.
During her daily press briefing, Ms Psaki was questioned by Fox News’s Peter Doocy regarding a video posted during the 2020 campaign which showed a photo of Mr Rittenhouse among pictures of right-wing protesters as audio played of the network’s anchor Chris Wallace asking Mr Trump whether he would condemn white supremacist and militia groups during a debate with Mr Biden.
Mr Doocy asked whether Mr Biden “would ever apologise” to Mr Rittenhouse “for suggesting online and on TV that he is a white supremacist”.
Ms Psaki responded that the video was meant to show how Mr Trump “actively encouraged” white supremacist and right wing militia groups during his presidency, before addressing Mr Rittenhouse himself.
In her answer, she referred to a 2020 photo that showed Mr Rittenhouse posing with members of the right-wing Proud Boys group following his not guilty plea in the case of the shootings in Kenosha, Wisc., for which he was charged.
Mr Biden, she added, “spoke to the verdict last week, he has obviously condemned the hatred and division and violence we’ve seen around the country [committed] by groups like the Proud Boys, and groups that that individual has posed in photos with”.
Mr Doocy’s questions did not address the photo referenced by Ms Psaki, and the Fox News reporter only noted that Mr Rittenhouse had not been “proven” in court to be associated with white supremacists. That assertion obviously omits mention of the judge’s decision in Mr Rittenhouse’s trial in September to forbid prosecutors from presenting evidence linking Mr Rittenhouse to the Proud Boys.
The teenager who was cleared of charges related to the shooting of three people (including the deaths of two) during the Kenosha protests last year spoke with Fox News’s Tucker Carlson for a wide-ranging documentary and interview amid his trial in Wisconsin, and during his interview accused Mr Biden of defaming him.
“Mr President, if I can say one thing to you, I would urge you to go back and watch the trial and understand the facts before you make a statement,” Mr Rittenhouse said.
“It is an actual malice and defaming my character for him to say something like that,” he added.
The president told reporters outside the White House last week that he respected the jury’s decision in the case, adding in a separate statement that he was “angry and concerned” by the verdict.