Rittenhouse should ‘sue every corporate media outlet’: Is Gov. DeSantis right?


Fact Box

  • On November 19, 2021, Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all five charges for fatally shooting two adults during riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin following the police shooting of Jacob Blake on August 23, 2020. Footage from August 25 reveals Rittenhouse firing in self-defense on three individuals that night.
  • Immediately following the Kenosha shootings, media pundits referred to Rittenhouse as a murderer, “school shooter [...] going out to shoot people,” “vigilante,” “domestic terrorist,” “deeply racist,” and a “white supremacist.” Then-presidential candidate, Joe Biden, depicted Rittenhouse as a white supremacist in his September 30, 2020 ad. On November 20, 2021, MSNBC host Tiffany Cross referred to Rittenhouse as “this little murderous white supremacist.”
  • On November 22, 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis reportedly urged Rittenhouse “to sue every corporate media outlet and every moronic commentator who smeared him into oblivion” and that “those in corporate media who peddle lies and partisan narratives are among the least reputable members of society” who shouldn’t be able to “smear people with impunity.”
  • Defamation is defined as “a statement that injures a third party's reputation,” including “libel (written statements) and slander (spoken statements).”
  • In his first post-trial interview with Fox’s Tucker Carlson, Rittenhouse said of potential defamation lawsuits that “I have really good lawyers who are taking care of that right now.”

Curtice (Yes)

Kyle Rittenhouse was vindicated as not guilty on all charges. The prosecution failed to make its case because it had no case to make; he was clearly defending himself. Many in the media were quick to rush to judgment and repeatedly made false claims regarding Rittenhouse's actions and character before, during, and even after the trial. Whether that was done knowingly or unknowingly, at the very least, it was very irresponsible of them to ignore their duty to journalism by remaining neutral, reporting only on the objective facts. Instead, they did everything they could to uphold an untrue narrative

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has weighed in the Rittenhouse verdict, suggesting Rittenhouse should 'sue every corporate media outlet and every moronic commentator who smeared him into oblivion.' The bar for proving defamation is high. Yet, as lawyer attorney Todd McMurtry has stated since Rittenhouse is a private figure, he would only have to prove negligence on the part of the person(s) who made the defamatory statement. It is something Rittenhouse should consider.

Consider some of the false claims touted by media commentators:

Rittenhouse was often referred to as a 'white supremacist.' Even Joe Biden suggested this in his presidential ad in September of 2020. There is and has been no evidence to support that he is.

Those who Rittenhouse shot were not Black; they were all as Caucasian as he is. He never illegally carried a firearm across state lines or illegally possessed an AR-15. Those claims were also not true, as were many others.

Those who were shot were portrayed much differently in the media than Rittenhouse for one simple reason: the media has an agenda. Facts are indeed stubborn things, and the media often chooses to ignore them when they don't support the narrative.

Jimmy (No) 

In an email sent to supporters from his re-election campaign, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis stated that Kyle Rittenhouse should sue the media for libel regarding the coverage of his trial. The message followed an email sent earlier in the week, featuring DeSantis' libelous reference to paralyzed shooting victim Jacob Blake as a 'scumbag.' DeSantis is leveraging the attention of the Rittenhouse trial to ignite his base in the leadup to his 2022 re-election campaign by making bad-faith arguments that only serve to tout his anti-media agenda

DeSantis has been calling for a crackdown on the media for a while, most recently regarding the coronavirus coverage. The governor has called press coverage of COVID-19 'deadly' and criticism of Florida's vaccine rollout 'horse manure.' Using far-right outlets OAN and Fox News, DeSantis decries 'partisan narratives' in the media. By suggesting people sue outlets that espouse opinions he dislikes, DeSantis is stoking a distrust in journalism that has turned deadly in countries across the globe. 

Fact-checking and investigative journalism are essential parts of ensuring we maintain a democratic society. Reporters serve as another check against the balance of power in government, ensuring 'Presidents, Representatives, and Justices do not abuse their powers.' When politicians begin campaigning against the media, they normalize government control of media—a hallmark of communist nations like China and Russia

The press must report upon and question the actions of those in power. Governor DeSantis already has a PR team in place to spin the narrative. The American public deserves a rebuttal.

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