Homeland Security pushed talking points sympathetic to Kenosha gunman

    "A Kyle Rittenhouse supporter in Kenosha Wisconsin" by Lightburst is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

    Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) is calling for an oversight hearing to investigate an NBC News report that the Trump administration prepped federal law enforcement officials to provide a sympathetic description of Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old Illinois gunman charged with killing two protesters in Kenosha and wounding a third.

    The network obtained a talking points document that suggested Department of Homeland Security officials, when responding to questions about Rittenhouse and the Aug. 25 shootings, should mention that he “took his rifle to the scene of the rioting to help defend small business owners.”

    NBC reported that it was not certain whether the talking points were composed by the Homeland Security press office or if they came from the White House.

    Sen. Tammy Baldwin
    Sen. Tammy Baldwin

    “This is an alarming report and the Senate Homeland Security Committee should hold an oversight hearing,” Baldwin stated Thursday. “We need to find out who in the Trump Administration is responsible for directing law enforcement officials during an ongoing investigation to publicly offer sympathetic comments to someone who is charged with fatally shooting two people.”

    The network also reported on Homeland Security talking points that said media were incorrectly labeling the rightwing group Patriot Prayer as racists, following confrontations in Portland, Ore., between Patriot Prayer and local protesters.

    “Three former Homeland Security officials, two of whom worked for Republican administrations, said it was unusual for law enforcement officials to be instructed to weigh in on a case involving a particular group or individual before investigations had concluded,” NBC News reported.

    “It is as unprecedented as it is wrong,” Peter Boogaard, an Obama administration Homeland Security spokesman, told the network.

    According to NBC, the talking points instructed officials to emphasize the importance of law and order: “This is also why we need to stop the violence in our cities. Chaotic and violent situations lead to chaotic, violent and tragic outcomes. Everyone needs law and order.”

    “Law and order” is a catchphrase that has become a centerpiece of the campaign to reelect President Donald Trump.

    The network said proposed statements in the Rittenhouse talking points document included the following:

    • “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.”
    • An instruction for officials asked about Rittenhouse to say they will not comment on an ongoing investigation — but, also, that they should state: “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.”

    Rittenhouse has been charged with two felony counts of homicide. He remains in Illinois while his lawyers contest extradition to Wisconsin.

    His mother received a standing ovation at an event Sept. 24 in Pewaukee sponsored by the Republican Women of Waukesha County.

    Erik Gunn
    Senior Reporter Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, along with related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.