You might think that people who get paid to write for prestige publications would be better journalists than mere bloggers, but then you encounter people like David Graham, who not only writes for the Atlantic, but actually teaches journalism at Duke University. In a remarkably counterfactual column Tuesday, Graham claimed that the riot in Kenosha, Wisconsin, “could cost Trump the election.”
Showing up with a rifle at mob scene like the Kenosha riots was a decision almost guaranteed to end badly. The question deserves to be asked, however: Why did officials allow this mob scene to happen?
While his primary object was to amplify Democratic talking points — accusing President Trump of “making every effort to stir up racial tension and provoke violence after the shooting of Jacob Blake” — Graham also casually smeared 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse. Graham expressed astonishment that Trump would defend the teenager who shot three rioters after being attacked last week. At a Monday press briefing, Trump “not only didn’t condemn Rittenhouse’s actions, but defended him,” Graham huffed, before misquoting the president. Here is what Trump actually said Monday when asked about Rittenhouse:
“We’re looking at all of it. And that was an interesting situation. You saw the same tape as I saw. And he was trying to get away from them, I guess; it looks like. And he fell, and then they very violently attacked him. And it was something that we’re looking at right now and it’s under investigation. But I guess he was in very big trouble. He would have been — I — he probably would have been killed.” (Emphasis added.)
But notice how Graham edits Trump’s quote about Rittenhouse: “He was trying to get away from them, I guess, it looks like. … I guess he was in very big trouble. He probably would have been killed.”
The truncated quote, you see, omits Trump’s reference to two highly relevant facts: First, that Rittenhouse was attacked, and second, that video of the Aug. 25 incident clearly shows what happened. Rittenhouse never fired his rifle except in self-defense and, while he is currently charged with two counts of murder, the teenager will almost certainly be acquitted if the case ever goes to trial. Why should Trump be expected to condemn a teenager who committed no crime?
One of the hazards of 21st-century liberalism is that its adherents inhabit an echo-chamber of agreement. Practically every university professor and the vast majority of journalists share the same fanatical antipathy toward Republicans, so that inside their hermetically sealed cultural bubble, “seldom is heard a discouraging word” about the liberal agenda. Anything that contradicts their beliefs, liberals dismiss as “right-wing talking points” attributed to the malign influence of Fox News or “conspiracy theorists.” This atmosphere conducive to liberal prejudice is what leads to such incidents of political tone-deafness as Hillary Clinton’s infamous characterization of Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables.”
Within the liberal echo chamber, David Graham may sincerely believe that the Kenosha riots will hurt Trump’s reelection chances, and none of his journalistic or academic comrades inside the bubble will tell him he’s crazy. No one employed at the Atlantic or Duke University would dare speak a word critical of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, nor say anything favorable about Trump. Open dissent from officially approved groupthink is impermissible at elite institutions, and so Graham is (or at least pretends to be) astonished by Trump’s unwillingness to condemn Kyle Rittenhouse. But the fact that Graham edited Trump’s words to omit reference to the Kenosha mob’s attacks on Rittenhouse (and to the video recordings of those attacks) suggests that Graham is aware of how facts contradict the liberal narrative, even as he seeks to suppress those facts.
What are the facts of what happened Aug. 25? The previous two nights, rioters had engaged in vandalism, looting, and arson in Kenosha, after video of the police shooting of Blake “went viral” on social media. On Aug. 25, according to his attorney, Kyle Rittenhouse spent the day working as a lifeguard at a swimming pool in Kenosha. He apparently decided to arm himself that evening in response to a call for volunteers on Facebook by the “Kenosha Guard,” a militia group (although Rittenhouse’s involvement with that group has been disputed). The idea seems to have been to prevent further destruction of private property, and in a video interview by Richard McGinnis, recorded that night before the shooting, Rittenhouse explained his armed presence in Kenosha as a humanitarian mission:
“So people are getting injured, and our job is to protect this business, and a part of my job is to also help people. If there’s somebody hurt, I’m running into harm’s way. That’s why I have my rifle because I need to protect myself, obviously. But I also have my med kit.”
As evidence of lawful motives, that interview might go a long way to exonerate Rittenhouse at trial, and from other video evidence it is clear that the man who first attacked the teenager was not acting in a spirit of non-violent protest. In a scene captured on video by Townhall reporter Julio Rojas, Rittenhouse’s group is confronted by an angry mob, including a man with a shaven head wearing a burgundy T-shirt, who repeatedly uses a racial epithet as he shouts at the armed civilians, “Shoot me, n***a!”
The shouting man was Joseph “JoJo” Rosenbaum, a 36-year-old registered sex offender who served more than a decade in Arizona prisons after being convicted in 2002 on a charge of “sexual conduct with a minor.” For more than a week, the exact nature of Rosenbaum’s crime was unknown, although obviously it must have been quite egregious for a judge in Tucson to have sentenced him to 10 years in prison and lifetime registry as a sex offender. This week, however, bloggers discovered that Rosenbaum had molested five boys ages 9 to 11. After noting how freedom-of-information access made it easy to obtain records of Rosenbaum’s crimes, the obvious question was asked: “It’s not difficult to do. If amateurs will do it for free, ask yourself, why won’t your journalists do it for pay?”
Online records show that Rosenbaum was twice returned to prison after his initial release, due to parole violations, and it was not until 2017 that he was finally set free. After leaving prison in Arizona, Rosenbaum lived briefly in Texas before relocating to Kenosha where he soon faced new legal trouble, being charged in July with battery, domestic abuse, and disorderly conduct. It was Rosenbaum who instigated the deadly violence that erupted Aug. 25 shortly before midnight. He is seen on video chasing Rittenhouse down a street and across a parking lot. According to a police affidavit, witnesses saw Rosenbaum assault Rittenhouse, attempting to grab the teenager’s rifle before Rittenhouse fired multiple shots, five of which hit Rosenbaum, who died on the scene. After analyzing video of that fatal encounter, one popular YouTuber had this reaction: “That’s the ultimate ‘play a stupid game, win a stupid prize.’ You’re running, chasing somebody down. The person you’re chasing has a rifle. What did you expect?”
This was an open-and-shut case of self-defense, and what happened next? According to witnesses, corroborated by video, Rittenhouse was apparently ready to remain on the scene of that shooting until people in the mob began shouting threats. Clearly fearing mob violence, Rittenhouse fled north on Sheridan Road. He ran less than two blocks before he was attacked again. First an unidentified man knocked his hat off, then Rittenhouse stumbled and fell, when he was attacked by a second unidentified man who fled after Rittenhouse apparently fired two shots. That’s when Rittenhouse was attacked by 26-year-old Anthony Huber, who hit him with a skateboard while attempting to grab Rittenhouse’s rifle. In this brief struggle, Rittenhouse fired once, a fatal shot that the medical examiner said pierced Huber’s heart and aorta.
Some in the media have tried to portray Huber as a heroic figure. In fact, he was a convicted felon who in 2012 pleaded guilty to serious domestic violence charges of strangulation and false imprisonment; more recently, in 2018, Huber pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct in a domestic abuse case. Almost instantly after shooting Huber, Rittenhouse was confronted by 26-year-old Gaige Grosskreutz, who is seen on video with a pistol in his right hand. Rittenhouse fired his rifle again, inflicting a ghastly wound on Grosskreutz’s right bicep. Was Grosskreutz a noble hero? Well, online records indicate that he was arrested on burglary charges in 2013. The disposition of that case is unknown, but in 2016, Grosskreutz was found guilty of carrying a firearm while intoxicated, a Class A misdemeanor in Wisconsin. Grosskreutz is also reportedly associated with a radical group in Milwaukee called the People’s Revolution Movement.
After shooting Grosskreutz, Rittenhouse then fired several shots into the air — evidently to discourage further attacks — and walked away. He surrendered to police the next day at his home in Illinois. Here’s an interesting point: The media have made much of the fact that Rittenhouse is an Illinois resident, but his hometown of Antioch, Illinois, is less than 20 miles from Kenosha — closer than West Allis, Wisconsin, a Milwaukee suburb 40 miles north of Kenosha, which is where Grosskreutz lives. If the issue in Kenosha is armed troublemakers coming from out of town, Grosskreutz is at least as guilty as the teenager who shot him. Furthermore, video evidence suggests, the pistol-wielding Grosskreutz could have been charged with aggravated assault against Rittenhouse. Nobody inside the liberal media echo chamber wants to acknowledge this, however, just as the media have shown a remarkable lack of curiosity about the self-described revolutionary organization to which Grosskreutz allegedly belonged.
It should go without saying that I would never urge any teenager to do what Kyle Rittenhouse did. Showing up with a rifle at mob scene like the Kenosha riots was a decision almost guaranteed to end badly. The question deserves to be asked, however: Why did officials allow this mob scene to happen? Tucker Carlson sparked controversy with his commentary last week:
“People in charge from the governor of Wisconsin on down refused to enforce the law. They stood back and they watched Kenosha burn. So are we really surprised that looting and arson accelerated to murder? How shocked are we that 17-year-olds with rifles decided they had to maintain order when no one else would?”
Shocked or not, several commentators outside the liberal bubble have argued that Rittenhouse didn’t shoot any innocent people. All three of the people he shot were attacking him, and all three of them had prior criminal records. On Twitter, “People’s Cube” blogger Oleg Atbashian remarked, “Kyle Rittenhouse shot a sex offender, a domestic abuser and an armed communist. The kid is only 17 and he’s completed half my bucket list.” It deserves to be further noted that, while the riots in Kenosha were allegedly about “systemic racism,” all three of the “mostly peaceful protesters” shot by Rittenhouse were white.
That’s a perspective David Graham will never encounter at Duke University or in a staff meeting at the Atlantic. A Wisconsin jury will ultimately decide what happens to Kyle Rittenhouse, but Graham and the rest of the liberal media are only concerned about what how the Kenosha riots will affect the November election. We shall see whether voters in Wisconsin and other swing states are willing to consider facts that don’t fit the narrative of the media mob.