October 20, 2020

DHS officials were told to give supportive interviews about Kenosha shooting suspect Kyle Rittenhouse, NBC report says

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  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was given sympathetic talking points to use in media briefings about Kyle Rittenhouse, according to NBC News
  • Documents that the outlet said it received in a leak direct staff to highlight the teen’s claims of self-defense, and steer conversations to law and order, NBC said.
  • Rittenhouse was charged in August with killing two people amid unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. 
  • Business Insider approached the DHS for comment but did not immediately receive a reply. The department told NBC News it would not comment on alleged leaks. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Federal law enforcement officials were told to make sympathetic public comments about Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old who is charged with killing two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, according to NBC News.  

The outlet reported it had seen internal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) documents that suggested responses to questions for its officials to use in media briefings. 

One document suggested that officials point out that Rittenhouse “took his rifle to the scene of the rioting to help defend small business owners,” the outlet reported.

It also reported that the memo had numerous talking points including one that suggested the “credence to [Rittenhouse’s] self-defense claims.”

Rittenhouse was charged with the intentional homicide of two people with an assault rifle in August in Kenosha, Wisconsin, following protests decrying the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man.

Rittenhouse crossed state lines to patrol the streets in response to ongoing unrest.

The teen, a Trump supporter, is accused of opening fire on three protesters, two of whom died. Rittenhouse’s attorney said the teen has been wrongly charged and that he was acting in self-defense

President Donald Trump has declined to condemn him, suggesting that Rittenhouse was trying to get away from the protesters he is accused of shooting. 

NBC News reported that the talking points included:

  • A comment giving weight to Rittenhouse’s defense: “Kyle was seen being chased and attacked by rioters before allegedly shooting three of them, killing two. Subsequent video has emerged reportedly showing that there were ‘multiple gunmen’ involved, which would lend more credence to the self-defense claims.”
  • To say “Rittenhouse, just like everyone else in America, is innocent until proven guilty and deserves a fair trial based on all the facts, not just the ones that support a certain narrative. This is why we try the accused in the court of law, not the star chamber of public opinion.”
  • A suggested way to steer exchanges to law and order: “This is also why we need to stop the violence in our cities. Chaotic and violent situations lead to chaotic, violent and tragic outcomes. Everyone needs law and order.”

Another set of talking points related to violence in Portland, Orgeon, per NBC News. It said the media were incorrectly labeling the group Patriot Prayer as racists.

NBC News was not able to ascertain whether the reported talking points came from the White House or within DHS. Officials ultimately did not make much use of the lines in the document, the outlet reported.

Former Homeland Security spokesman Peter Boogaard told the outlet it was “unprecedented” and “wrong” for officials to be given comments to make while an investigation is ongoing. 

Business Insider has approached the DHS for comment but did not immediately receive a reply. A DHS spokesperson told NBC News that it “does not comment on alleged leaked documents.”