In his first interview since being acquitted of murder, Kyle Rittenhouse slammed both the men who prosecuted him and the former lawyers who made him a Second Amendment hero.
Rittenhouse, now 18, answered a series of fawning questions from Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who called him a “sweet kid” and seemed shocked to hear about substandard living conditions in his jail.
Carlson is also producing a documentary about the case, which will be released in December. Rittenhouse’s attorney, Mark Richards, told The Associated Press that the filming was arranged against his wishes by people who were raising money for Rittenhouse, though he did not say that Fox paid the teen.
During the hourlong interview aired Monday, Rittenhouse offered sharp words for his former attorneys Lin Wood and John Pierce, whom he accused of using him to raise money for their own political agendas. Rittenhouse and Wood are fighting over who should get the $2 million posted for the teen’s bail in November 2020.
The Chicago Tribune reached out to Wood, whose Fightback Foundation champions far-right issues and election conspiracy theories, and he responded with a recording of an interview he had done Monday with another news organization. Wood told a Daily Beast reporter he was recording the conversation and would share it publicly.
Wood suggested Rittenhouse had been fed “misinformation” and said he had done nothing but help the teen. He said the teen was being influenced by an advisor with “a deep state agenda.”
“In addition to making the $2 million bail, Fightback paid about $700,000 for his attorneys’ fees and expenses of litigation, including spending money to produce the videotape that was kinda the start to finish of what happened,” he said on the recording.
Rittenhouse spent more than 80 days in jail, including several weeks in a Kenosha facility that he said didn’t have running water. Carlson appeared incredulous as Rittenhouse described the sanitary conditions and fears for his own safety while in custody. Though he didn’t have running water, Rittenhouse said he had a single cell with a desk, television, bed, tablet and phone.
“Imagine putting that kid in jail,” Carlson told viewers in a tone typically reserved for pearl clutching.
Rittenhouse also criticized his former attorney Pierce for saying the teen was part of an “unorganized militia.” Rittenhouse’s defense team blasted the militia rumors at trial, without acknowledging his ex-lawyer’s role in the claim.
“John Pierce said that and it’s blatantly false,” Rittenhouse said. “I didn’t know what militia was until after the fact, until November 25, when I was watching some of the interviews he did. I’m like, I’m not in a militia. I don’t know what that is.”
Rittenhouse fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz while ostensibly guarding a used car lot with an AR-15-style rifle in downtown Kenosha on Aug. 25, 2020. All four men were in the southeast Wisconsin town amid social unrest following the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a white police officer.
A Kenosha County jury found he acted in self-defense each time he pulled the trigger, acquitting him of all five felony counts against him. Kenosha County Judge Bruce Schroeder dismissed a misdemeanor gun charge and ticket for a curfew violation during the trial.
“I believe God’s been on my side from the beginning,” Rittenhouse told Carlson.
Rittenhouse repeated many of the explanations and self-defense claims he offered during his testimony. He also hurled accusations at Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger, alleging prosecutorial misconduct and saying he worried about defendants who didn’t have the money to fight for themselves like he did.
“I am not racist person. I support the BLM movement. I support peacefully demonstrating,” he said. “I believe there needs to be change. I believe there is a lot of prosecutorial misconduct, not just in my case but in other cases. It’s just amazing to see how much a prosecutor can take advantage of someone. If they did this to me, imagine what they could have done to a person of color who maybe doesn’t have the resources I do.”
In an e-mail to the Tribune, Binger said he had not seen the interview or paid attention to comments made since the verdict. He said he has been focused on two upcoming trials, including one in which a 15-year-old girl was abducted and raped.
“As for Mr. Rittenhouse, the only thing I can say is that I have been a prosecutor for a long time and I know that it’s routine for defendants to accuse the police or the prosecution of misconduct because they’re unhappy that they’ve been caught and charged with a crime,” Binger wrote. “I give Mr. Rittenhouse’s complaints no more credence than I do any other disgruntled defendant’s. He would be wise to remember that being found not guilty by a jury is not the same thing as being innocent. Indeed, no one can ignore the fact that he killed 2 people, and that’s a burden he will have to carry with him for the rest of his life.”
Carlson also attacked reports referring to Rittenhouse as a white supremacist, correctly asserting there is no evidence the teen had ties to any hate groups before the shootings. Carlson did not ask Rittenhouse about photos showing him posing with members of the Proud Boys, a far-right group known for street fights that the Anti-Defamation League characterizes as “misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic and anti-immigration,” with some members espousing “white supremacist and antisemitic ideologies.”
As he had during his testimony, Rittenhouse said he is “a student at Arizona State University.” An ASU spokesman, however, said Rittenhouse “has not gone through the admissions process with Arizona State University and is not enrolled in the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation.” Instead, he started a nondegree seeking online program Oct. 13 — less than three weeks before the trial began.
Rittenhouse said he would like to live on campus, studying either nursing or law. He plans to move out of the Midwest and keep a low profile, he said.