The Slatest

DHS Talking Points Reportedly Emphasized Kenosha Shooter’s Side of the Story

A person in a crowd holds a sign that reads "Kyle's Life Matters"
A far-right rally in Portland, Oregon, on Saturday. Maranie R. Staab/AFP via Getty Images

NBC News obtained internal Department of Homeland Security talking points that reveal a disturbing framing of the August shooting of two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The memo directed federal law enforcement officials to bend over backward to portray 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who was arrested and subsequently charged with murder for fatally shooting two protesters, in a broadly sympathetic light. The DHS, of course, hasn’t been alone in coming to Rittenhouse’s defense. President Donald Trump himself instantaneously defended the teenager, who packed up weapons and drove from another state to notionally “defend” a car dealership in the unrest following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Many conservatives have similarly rallied behind Rittenhouse’s claim to be acting in self-defense.

The DHS talking points go to great lengths to emphasize what has been a conservative line of thinking on the shooting: that Rittenhouse was in the area to defend local businesses and that he was being chased by protesters.

It’s not clear where the talking points originated, but they instruct officials to emphasize several things:

• “[Rittenhouse] took his rifle to the scene of the rioting to help defend small business owners.”
• “Kyle was seen being chased and attacked by rioters before allegedly shooting three of them, killing two.”
• “Subsequent video has emerged reportedly showing that there were ‘multiple gunmen’ involved, which would lend more credence to the self-defense claims.”

This framing of Rittenhouse’s shooting three and killing two is couched in the larger yes-but-law-and-order justification being spun on the right as a justification for wantonly shooting three strangers, killing two of them. “This is also why we need to stop the violence in our cities. Chaotic and violent situations lead to chaotic, violent and tragic outcomes,” the talking points explain. “Everyone needs law and order.”

Officials were told to state they will not comment on an ongoing investigation, buuuuut to add: “What I will say is that Rittenhouse, just like everyone else in America, is innocent until proven guilty and deserves a fair trial based on all the facts, not just the ones that support a certain narrative. This is why we try the accused in the court of law, not the star chamber of public opinion.”

Oh, now we’re into due process and fair trials.