WASHINGTON — A small cohort of Republican lawmakers and candidates are heroizing Kyle Rittenhouse and celebrating his acquittal of murder in the killing of two people during protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake last August.
In a series of social media posts and media appearances both before and after Friday's verdict, those Republicans have encouraged Rittenhouse and offered him congressional internships.
In a video posted Friday, Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina proclaimed Rittenhouse’s innocence, and said, “You have a right to defend yourselves. Be armed, be dangerous, and be moral.” In a caption on the video, Cawthorn wrote, “Kyle: If you want an internship, reach out to me.”
But that wasn’t Rittenhouse’s only offer of employment.
In an interview with Newsmax earlier this week, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz endorsed him for an internship at the Capitol. “Rittenhouse would make a pretty good congressional intern,” Gaetz told the host.
Gaetz retweeted the offer after the verdict. (Gaetz, notably, might need the staff: He recently experienced some turnover in his office after reports that he was being investigated for child sex trafficking.)
This embrace of Rittenhouse and vigilantism has ignited a new debate over gun rights and self-defense, and further cements the Republican Party’s welcoming of anti–Black Lives Matter sentiments.
Rittenhouse is the latest addition to a group of celebrated figures in the party like Patricia and Mark McCloskey, the Missouri couple charged with the unlawful use of a weapon after they were filmed pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters and who were featured prominently at the 2020 Republican National Convention. Mark McCloskey, who is now running for US Senate in Missouri, appeared outside the courtroom during Rittenhouse’s trial.
Rittenhouse faced murder charges after killing two men, Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, and wounding another, Gaige Grosskreutz, at a protest last summer over the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Wisconsin.
He pleaded not guilty to all charges against him — including two counts of first-degree homicide, two counts of recklessly endangering safety, and one count of attempted homicide — and was acquitted after 26 hours of jury deliberation.
Republican support for Rittenhouse goes at least as far back as November 2020, when Florida state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, who’s now running for United States Congress, tweeted, “KYLE RITTENHOUSE FOR CONGRESS.”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene also supported Rittenhouse, writing in a tweet Friday that he was one of the “good guys.”
“Those who help, protect, and defend are the good guys,” she wrote. “Kyle is one of good ones.”