The right wing defense of Kyle Rittenhouse is based on misinfo

Debunking a number of claims about the Kenosha shooting

On the night of August 25, 2020, Kyle Rittenhouse, an armed 17-year-old from Illinois, shot three protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, killing two of them.

As videos depicting the night’s events flooded social media channels, conservative media and right wing social media personalities quickly jumped to Rittenhouse's defense.

But their defense of the shooter is based on misinfo. 

In fact, it’s based on a number of them. But there are a few main points of misinformation being spread to justify the shootings. Let's break them down.

CLAIM: The incident begins with Rittenhouse being pushed to the floor

The biggest piece of misinformation being spread about the Kenosha shootings is how the incident began. 

There are a number of viral photographs and videos depicting Kyle Rittenhouse on the floor, sitting in the middle of the street after having tripped with his AR-15 style firearm. A group of protesters accost Rittenhouse from behind and attack him. He fires his weapon and shoots two protesters, Anthony Huber and Gaige Grosskreutz. Huber dies from his wound.

The defense of Rittenhouse upon seeing this video is often, well, it was all self-defense from an unprovoked “unruly mob” out to hurt or kill him.

Except at that point, Rittenhouse had already shot and killed someone. That’s why the protesters were following after him in the first place. 

It's unclear where Rittenhouse was going at that point or what he was going to do next...again, he had just shot someone and was leaving the scene. Huber and Grosskreutz were attempting to incapacitate an individual involved in an active shooting just minutes earlier.

Anthony Huber appears to try and hit Rittenhouse with his skateboard and disarm him. Rittenhouse fires a shot into Huber’s chest, killing him. Gaige Grosskreutz, a street medic, approaches Rittenhouse as Huber stumbles away after being shot. Grosskreutz is armed with a handgun, but puts his hands up after seeing Huber get shot. Grosskreutz continues forward and the 17-year-old shoots him in the arm. Rittenhouse gets up off the floor and walks past the oncoming police line.

The videos uploaded to Twitter sure help provide a visual of what went down. But each video is often presented with zero context of when they took place on the timeline of events. Mainstream media certainly didn’t help the issue. Early reports from the New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN on Wednesday morning provided no such timeline, often grouping all three shootings together in reports. It was about a full 24 hours before the Times would publish what appears to be the first piece providing a time frame, explaining that there were two different places where the shootings took place.

This left more than enough time for misinformation to spread.

Conservative media personalities mostly shared just the video depicting the second shooting only in the first 24 hours following the incident. Those who only saw this clip believe that the video shows where the confrontation began.

CLAIM: A molotov cocktail was thrown at Rittenhouse

The defense of Rittenhouse from the right is different if the person knows there is indeed an earlier incident.

The right argues that a molotov cocktail was thrown at Rittenhouse. This justified lethal force, they say. One problem with this defense: there was no molotov cocktail.

Before shooting Huber and Grosskreutz in the street, Rittenhouse shot and killed a protester identified as Joseph Rosenbaum in a car dealership parking lot.

Videos depict Rittenhouse running across the street and entering the dealership with Rosenbaum chasing behind him. Rittenhouse stops behind a car parked in the dealership. Rosenbaum throws an object at Rittenhouse, which the criminal complaint has confirmed to be a plastic bag. There is a gunshot from the other side of the street. The armed 17-year-old turns around. Rosebaum approaches him. Rittenhouse fires his weapon. According to the coroner’s report, Rosenbaum was shot numerous times.

We don’t know what exactly led to the encounter in the dealership. But we do have a number of clips that show tensions were high between protesters and the militia group that Rittenhouse is with earlier in the night.

One video in particular that the far right seems to enjoy depicts Rosenbaum, the man who Rittenhouse shot and killed in the car dealership parking lot, taunting the militia group to shoot him. However, there’s a key detail in this same video that they seem to ignore or have missed.

Rosenbaum is clearly holding a plastic bag in the clip. Here’s a screenshot.

Now, here’s a screenshot of the “molotov cocktail” the right alleged Rosenbaum threw.

It’s a bag.

CLAIM: Rittenhouse calls 911 to help his first victim

There are a few baffling claims that even most conservative media outlets did not appear to report. This is one of them. 

After shooting Rosenbaum, Rittenhouse walks to the other side of his victim as nearby Daily Caller reporter Richie McGinniss administers first aid. McGinniss has claimed in video interviews that he didn’t realize the person standing beside him was the shooter and that he tells him to call 911. Rittenhouse picks up his phone and runs away. Video captures him saying “I just killed somebody” as he leaves the scene.

However, Rittenhouse is not on the phone with 911. Instead of calling for help, he phones his friend to tell him that he just shot a protester.

The misinformation about him calling 911 could possibly be coming from McGinniss. The DailyCaller reporter has done numerous interviews, including one on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program, where he says he told Rittenhouse to call 911. Video from that moment then depicts the 17-year-old making a phone call. This falsehood also seems to originate from two right wing YouTube personalities. Both claim Rittenhouse calls 911 in their videos about the shooting. The more popular video has close to a million views. (One YouTuber, who goes by username “Donut Operator,” has retracted the 911 claim. The other, who operates under the name “towlie2110 lol” of “Clown World News” has not yet corrected his initial inaccurate claim and has since made this same claim in subsequent videos.)

CLAIM: A second person shoots Rosenbaum

Once the medical examiner’s report was released for Rosenbaum, a new conspiracy was born: there was a second person who shot Rosenbaum. There is zero evidence of this.

The claim stems from the coroner’s report which states that Rosenbaum was shot in the back, perforating his right lung and liver. Other wounds include a shot to the groin, which fractured his pelvis, and shot to the hand, and superficial wounds to his thigh and head.

So where’d the shot from the back come from if Rittenhouse and Rosenbaum are facing one another? Rittenhouse. Watch the video. Rosenbaum drops to the floor as soon as the first gunshot rings out from Rittenhouse’s firearm. He doesn’t fall backwards. He falls straight forward, face first, on his stomach. You can also see when those nearby offer him medical attention, they have to turn him over so they can administer aid.

So, Rosenbaum is hitting the ground face first, his back exposed to the air, three more shots ring out, and one gunshot perforates both his right lung and liver, which could suggest the shot came at an angle.

Based on the evidence, the only person who shot anyone that night was Kyle Rittenhouse.

CLAIM: Gaige Grosskreutz, the armed protester that Rittenhouse shot in the arm, is a felon

There was an attempt to smear Rittenhouse’s three victims immediately after the shootings took place. Right wing social media scoured the internet to look into their past, pulling up criminal histories. 

Only one of their claims – Grosskreutz is a felon which would prohibit him from having a firearm – from this would have any bearing on the events that occurred last night...if it were true. 

A search of the Wisconsin court case database pulls up no record of felonies committed by Grosskreutz. One can find a handful of misdemeanors, but nothing that would prohibit Grosskreutz from owning a firearm.

The source of the felony accusation appears to come from a page with basic information of a felony charge on a third party mugshot website. The page has incorrect details on Grosskreutz’s age and date of birth. 

It’s unclear if the charges were later dropped or if this third-party website just has completely incorrect information. One thing that is true though is that there is no record of this 2013 arrest of Grosskreutz or him being convicted of a felony in the online Wisconsin court database.

CLAIM: Rittenhouse shot protesters to protect the burning of a business

In on-the-ground interviews before the shooting, Rittenhouse says one of the main reasons he went to the protests was to defend a local business. The right’s defense is that the people who shot were rioters burning down local businesses. However, there is no proof that these three protesters were involved in damaging any place of business. 

In fact, the shootings didn’t even occur at the business that Rittenhouse was allegedly there to protect. 

The full video I mentioned earlier with Rosenbaum holding the plastic bag depicts an argument between a group of protesters and a group with the militia. Numerous protesters can be heard voicing that the militia group keeps approaching with their guns pointed at them. A few protesters who seem, at the very least, cordial with the militia approach them to express this same concern and how it's upsetting everyone. That’s what appears to initially anger Rosenbaum, who proceeds to taunt them. 

In this same video, one of the armed men walks over to his fellow militia members and yells at them to get back to the door of the establishment they're stationed at.

Earlier videos throughout the night show Rittenhouse walking the streets, far away from the business he was reportedly there to protect. In a few videos he can be seen asking if anyone needs medical attention. The armed 17-year-old appears to agitate the protesters while doing this on a few occasions, including in one specific video where protesters allege that Rittenhouse pointed his gun and barked orders at them earlier in the night.

In addition, there are newly surfaced clips from right before Rosenbaum pursues Rittenhouse where the 17-year-old is seen holding a small fire extinguisher. Misinformation has run rampant about the claim that Rittenhouse extinguished a garbage fire and that’s what set Rosenbaum off. This is pure speculation. 

There is a clip being passed around purportedly showing Rittenhouse extinguishing a large dumpster fire in front of a gas station. 

This is not Rittenhouse extinguishing the fire. Here’s video and a still from moments before showing that man with the fire extinguisher, who clearly looks nothing like the 17-year-old shooter.

It is unclear where Rittenhouse is going at this point as video shows him passing by small garbage fires while he’s holding the fire extinguisher. It’s also not yet clear what happened which causes that specific fateful confrontation between Rittenhouse and Rosenbaum.

In the end, a jury of Rittenhouse’s peers will decide whether the armed 17-year-old was acting in self defense or not. However, that determination should not be made based on stories of a remorseful Rittenhouse calling 911 or a molotov cocktail being thrown at him. Because they’re not true.