The persistent media falsehood that Kyle Rittenhouse was armed with an AR-15 style rifle when he “crossed state lines” before his deadly encounters in Kenosha, Wis., has led to multiple corrections and considerable mockery as the reckoning over misleading coverage of the trial continues.
What Insider called “perhaps the most persistent myth” around the case was peddled repeatedly in liberal media outlets, in print and on television, before and even during the trial. It was established through testimony and police records that the rifle Rittenhouse used in the shootings of three people, two fatal, was already stored in Kenosha. Several of his family members lived in Kenosha, and the AR-15 style rifle was bought for Rittenhouse by his friend Dominick Black and stored at his house.
The oft-used media line that he traveled across “state lines” gave off the impression he was an outsider who traveled from afar, when in reality he traveled less than a half hour to Kenosha from his town Antioch, Ill., just south of the state border.
Kyle Rittenhouse listens as his attorney, Mark Richards, give his closing argument during Rittenhouse’s trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, U.S., November 15, 2021. Sean Krajacic/Pool via REUTERS
(Sean Krajacic/Pool via REUTERS)
Following Rittenhouse’s acquittal on all charges after he claimed self-defense in the case, CBS News correspondent Mark Strassman reported on Sunday’s “Face The Nation” that “Rittenhouse drove in from Illinois armed for battle,” leading the outlet to issue a correction and apology for its language.
He was hardly alone, though, with dozens of pundits repeating the phrase ad nauseam in the lead-up to and indeed during the case.
Ana Kasparian of the far-left Young Turks blasted Rittenhouse for having “crossed state lines with an illegal gun” earlier this month before correcting herself on a later show, saying it was important to have the “facts.”
“The 17-year-old vigilante, arguably a domestic terrorist, picked up a rifle, drove to a different state to shoot people,” MSNBC’s John Heilemann said last year.
“Not only was he not standing his ground, he wasn’t even standing in his own state,” MSNBC host Joe Scarborough said on Nov. 1. “He crossed state lines with an AR-15, threw himself in the middle of all this and started shooting people.”
“In Wisconsin you have Rittenhouse, a White teenager who crossed state lines with an AR-15-style rifle. Killed two men and wounded another and was told by police to go home,” left-wing CNN anchor Don Lemon said on Nov. 16.
Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger holds Kyle Rittenhouse’s gun as he gives the state’s closing argument in Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Monday, Nov. 15, 2021.
((Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News via AP, Pool))
“Now if you recall, the teenager drove from his home in Illinois across state lines armed with a semiautomatic rifle to the site of the protests where he shot and killed two men and wounded another,” MSNBC anchor Ayman Mohyeldin said last month.
ABC’s Joy Behar made two false assertions on Nov. 11, saying Rittenhouse “goes across state lines with an AR-15, with his mother.” His mother did not drive him to Wisconsin, an assertion also incorrectly made by CNN’s Bakari Sellers. Behar corrected the remark about his mother a few minutes later but not about the rifle.
The day of the acquittal, left-wing “Peacock” comedian Amber Ruffin repeated the falsehood as well. The viral video has more than 8 million views on Twitter but hasn’t been flagged as misinformation.
“It’s not OK for a man to grab a rifle, travel across state lines, and shoot three people, and then walk free,” she said.
The examples are nearly endless. “The View” co-host Whoopi Goldberg, legal analyst Areva Martin, MSNBC’s Dean Obeidallah, and MSNBC legal analyst Maya Wiley also made the false claim.
The day after the verdicts, the New York Times’ Glenn Thrush quoted a gun control proponent fretting that Rittenhouse could “grab an assault weapon, travel across state lines” and kill people without consequences.
“Only in America can a 17-year-old grab an assault weapon, travel across state lines, provoke a fight, kill two people and injure another and pay no consequences,” he told Thrush, with no text indicating what he said was wrong. Thrush did not respond to a request for comment on whether he would update the piece.
That incorrect assessment was also spotted by Fox News Digital in Reuters and the Washington Post – which have both since issued corrections – as well as opinion pieces in Glamour, Esquire, Deadspin, and Gothamist.
“This Nov 19 story corrects third paragraph to make clear Rittenhouse did not bring his weapon from Illinois to Wisconsin,” a correction at the top of the Reuters piece now reads.
“An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Kyle Rittenhouse brought his AR-15 across state lines. He has testified that he picked up the weapon from a friend’s house in Wisconsin. This article has been corrected,” the Washington Post reported.
Requests for comment from Fox News Digital to CNN, MSNBC, ABC, Peacock, Gothamist, and writers at Glamour, Esquire, and Deadspin went unreturned.
Even outlets that correctly noted the rifle was already in Wisconsin, or simply ignored that fact, still made a repeated point that he had “crossed state lines,” seemingly giving the false impression he travelled a great distance or had no connection whatsoever to Kenosha.
Journalist Bari Weiss, the former New York Times opinion editor who left the newspaper last year, admitted she was so misled by news coverage that she falsely assumed for a time that Rittenhouse indeed traveled with his rifle across state lines to a town unfamiliar to him.
Kyle Rittenhouse puts his hand over his face after he is found not guilt on all counts at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021. The jury came back with its verdict afer close to 3 1/2 days of deliberation. (Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)
(Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)
The satirical Babylon Bee got in on the mockery with the headline, “Media Warns Thousands Of Americans Planning To Cross State Lines To Celebrate Thanksgiving.”
Black, the friend of Rittenhouse who bought the rifle for him with the understanding he wouldn’t use it until he turned 18, is being prosecuted for making an illegal straw purchase. However, the court determined that Rittenhouse, 17 at the time of his deadly encounters in Kenosha, was legally allowed to have the gun at the time.
Rittenhouse was acquitted on all charges on Friday in his closely watched trial, successfully arguing he acted in self-defense.
Media outlets and progressive pundits and lawmakers also called Rittenhouse a murderer and a White supremacist before, during and after his trial. In an exclusive interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson that aired Monday, Rittenhouse suggested he could take legal action.