Should Kyle Rittenhouse file defamation lawsuits against the media corporations and politicians who have allegedly defamed him by calling him a white supremacist and repeated outright lies about his case?
Support for Rittenhouse to do just that erupted Friday after he was found not guilty on all five criminal charges against him.
What is the background?
In the wake of the verdict, prominent politicians continue to call Rittenhouse a white supremacist.
Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), for example, not only called Rittenhouse a white supremacist, but alleged the entire trial was “white supremacy in action.”
“The judge. The jury. The defendant. It’s white supremacy in action. This system isn’t built to hold white supremacists accountable,” Bush reacted to the verdict. “It’s why Black and brown folks are brutalized and put in cages while white supremacist murderers walk free. I’m hurt. I’m angry. I’m heartbroken.’
The judge. The jury. The defendant.nnItu2019s white supremacy in action.nnThis system isnu2019t built to hold white supremacists accountable. Itu2019s why Black and brown folks are brutalized and put in cages while white supremacist murderers walk free.nnIu2019m hurt. Iu2019m angry. Iu2019m heartbroken.
— Cori Bush (@Cori Bush)
Countless examples exist of prominent Democrats, media members, and other figureheads with platforms making similar comments. President Joe Biden, when he was a candidate, also lumped Rittenhouse into white supremacy without evidence to support such a claim.
What was the reaction?
Blaze Media’s Glenn Beck said he wants to donate money to Rittenhouse’s legal fund, so that he can “sue the CRAP out of corporate media.”
“I’d give money…for his offense, to now go on the offense and sue the crap out of corporate media for what they’ve done. They lied about him the whole time. They’ve destroyed his life,” Beck said. “It is time to say, ‘enough is enough’ with the corporate media.”
“President Biden should be issuing an apology today. He has smeared him,” Beck added. “Everybody has smeared this guy. Where are the apologies?”
I will donate money to Kyle Rittenhouse so he can sue the CRAP out of corporate media.pic.twitter.com/bVAekXWN9D
— Glenn Beck (@Glenn Beck)
Fox News host Sean Hannity agreed.
“Kyle Rittenhouse should sue them all, all of them,” Hannity
said on his Friday show. “Starting with Joe Biden.”
Conservative commentator Matt Walsh
said, “I hope Rittenhouse bankrupts all of you dirtbags in media who smeared him as a white supremacist. I hope he ruins your life. I want you to suffer. It’s what you deserve. It’s justice.”
I hope Rittenhouse bankrupts all of you dirtbags in media who smeared him as a white supremacist. I hope he ruins your life. I want you to suffer. Itu2019s what you deserve. Itu2019s justice.
— Matt Walsh (@Matt Walsh)
said, “Biden has no immunity for calling Rittenhouse a ‘white supremacist’ when he was a private citizen running for president. Rittenhouse has got to sue Biden.”
Biden has no immunity for calling Rittenhouse a “white supremacist” when he was a private citizen running for president. nnRittenhouse has got to sue Biden.
— Ann Coulter (@Ann Coulter)
Meanwhile, Nick Sandmann — who settled lawsuits against the Washington Post and CNN for undisclosed amounts of money — told Fox News on Friday that he would sue the media and others if he were in Rittenhouse’s shoes, but said the decision to pursue litigation is ultimately up to Rittenhouse.
What about Biden?
Lawyer Todd McMurtry, who helped Sandmann settle his defamation lawsuits, said that Biden’s tweet involving Rittenhouse could potentially be “actionable.”
“What you take from that tweet is that Kyle Rittenhouse was using his rifle and engaging in white supremacist misconduct, so it’s actionable,” McMurtry told Fox News. “Not necessarily going to win, but it’s actionable.”
While it may be “actionable,” other legal experts told the Daily Caller that winning a defamation case would prove difficult for Rittenhouse.
“In defamation cases, different standards apply whether you are considered to be a public figure or a private figure,” said Zack Smith, a legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation. “If you’re considered to be a public figure, you have to show that the media outlet or the individual making or repeating the factual statement about you did so with actual malice or reckless disregard. That actual malice standard is very difficult to overcome.”
Meanwhile, Lincoln Bandlow, a First Amendment lawyer, explained the phrase “white supremacist” is rather ambiguous, making it difficult to prove defamation.
“The argument would be no one even knows what that means anymore because it’s so ridiculous, so it wouldn’t be an objective provable statement of fact in any way, so it would be a protected opinion,” Bandlow said. “Defamation only applies to false factual statements. Someone can’t be sued for making, stating an opinion, their opinion about someone.”
Fundraising platform GoFundMe announced Friday after the Rittenhouse verdict that it would permit a fundraiser for Rittenhouse because he was acquitted.
GoFundMe’s Terms of Service prohibit raising money for the legal defense of an alleged violent crime. In light of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, we want to clarify when and why we removed certain fundraisers in the past.
Once charges for a violent crime were brought against Kyle Rittenhouse in 2020, GoFundMe removed fundraisers that were started for the defendant’s legal defense. We did this as part of our regular monitoring efforts; in addition to those fundraisers, our Trust & Safety team removed hundreds of other fundraisers between August and December 2020 — unrelated to Rittenhouse — that we determined were in violation of this long-standing policy.
If someone is acquitted of those charges, as Rittenhouse was today, a fundraiser started subsequently for their legal defense and other expenses would not violate this policy. A fundraiser to pay lawyers, cover legal expenses or to help with ongoing living expenses for a person acquitted of those charges could remain active as long as we determine it is not in violation of any of our other terms and, for example, the purpose is clearly stated and the correct beneficiary is added to the fundraiser.