Republican Senator Tom Cotton (Ark.) demanded President Biden “publicly apologize” to Kyle Rittenhouse for characterizing him as a “white supremacist” in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter riots in Kenosha, Wisc., last summer.
After deliberating for over 24 hours, the jury returned a verdict of “not guilty” in the Rittenhouse trial Friday, dismissing all charges against him connected to the fatal shooting of two men and the wounding of another during the August 2020 Kenosha protests.
“Joe Biden needs to publicly apologize to Kyle Rittenhouse,” Cotton tweeted following the ruling.
Biden’s original accusation stems from an opposition video released during his presidential campaign which depicted Rittenhouse as a racially motivated vigilante, brandishing a gun. A tweet from Biden accompanied the video, reading: “There’s no other way to put it: the President of the United States refused to disavow white supremacists on the debate stage last night.”
As the trial testimony illuminated, however, the three men Rittenhouse shot were white. Rittenhouse affirmed that he intervened in the Kenosha unrest to defend a car dealership at the request of an employee and that he fired his gun in self-defense, an argument which ultimately persuaded the jury.
On Friday, Biden dodged press questions on whether he still believes Rittenhouse to be a white supremacist. As to the trial decision, Biden expressed disappointment in it but tepidly recognized that jury verdicts must be respected for our judicial system to function.
“I stand by what the jury has concluded. The jury system works and we have to abide by it,” Biden said to reporters on the White House lawn Friday. In a written statement he published, Biden said that he acknowledges that many Americans, including himself, are “angry and concerned” about the verdict but pressed for peace in the streets.
“I know that we’re not going to heal our country’s wounds overnight, but I remain steadfast in my commitment to do everything in my power to ensure that every American is treated equally, with fairness and dignity, under the law,” he said. “I urge everyone to express their views peacefully, consistent with the rule of law. Violence and destruction of property have no place in our democracy.”
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki similarly avoided the question about Biden’s previous caricature of Rittenhouse while reiterating that Rittenhouse should not have engaged in the violence in Kenosha on behalf of law enforcement.
“What I’m not going to speak to right now is an ongoing trial nor the president’s past comments. What I can reiterate for you is the president’s view that we shouldn’t have, broadly speaking, vigilantes patrolling our communities with assault weapons,” she said to reporters at a briefing.