Though millions of Americans last week celebrated the fact that Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges, the outcome of the highly controversial case has created a series of dilemmas for President Joe Biden, both in terms of the political fallout it engenders as well as potential legal exposure for his past comments about the man a jury has now declared innocent.
Saddled by plummeting public approval due to issues ranging from COVID-19 fatigue, economic woes, and the crisis at the southern border, having to wade into a racially-fraught topic such as the Rittenhouse acquittal on charges stemming from actions taken in self defense during 2020 unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin is something Biden would have surely liked to avoid.
“This is one of the last things Biden wants to be engaging in at this moment as he tries to finish up the Build Back Better bill and get that across the finish line through the Senate. Race and Kyle Rittenhouse is not the space where he wants or needs to be going deep right now,” said Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion director Christopher Borick, according to the Associated Press.
Even so, in the aftermath of the jury’s decision, Biden urged those upset with the verdict to keep their protests peaceful, while also acknowledging that the teen’s acquittal left him feeling “angry and concerned,” as Fox News reported.
Attempting to walk a fine line between appeasing those on the left who have expressed outrage at the Rittenhouse verdict and not offending more moderate and conservative voters who believe the outcome was correct, Biden must now contend with assertions such as those made by GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert, who said, “It seems liberals want self-defense to be illegal. Try running on that in 2022 and see how far it gets you with the majority of the sane American public.”
Aside from the political quandary in which the Rittenhouse verdict puts Biden and the Democrats, some legal experts have suggested that the now-acquitted defendant in that case may have an actionable defamation claim against the president, as Fox News reported separately.
According to Todd McMurtry, an attorney who assisted former Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann in his defamation suit against CNN, a social media post involving Rittenhouse made under Biden’s name before he was elected president could result in civil liability for the now-commander in chief.
Commenting on a debate in which then-President Donald Trump participated, Biden tweeted, “There’s no other way to put it: the President of the United States refused to disavow white supremacists on the debate stage last night,” and the post included a video montage which included a still photo of an armed Rittenhouse on the night that resulted in criminal charges being filed against him.
As McMurtry put it, “What you take from that tweet is that Kyle Rittenhouse was using his rifle and engaging in White supremacist misconduct so it’s actionable,” and while there is no guarantee such a claim would ultimately succeed, its potential viability just adds to the growing sense that Biden’s self-inflicted troubles will continue to mount.