Media

Tucker Carlson praises Kyle Rittenhouse as a ‘sweet kid’ in a sympathetic new interview

“Imagine putting that kid in jail.”

SEAN KRAJACIC
Tucker Carlson and Kyle Rittenhouse established a friendly rapport throughout the conversation, even sharing moments of levity. SEAN KRAJACIC


Kyle Rittenhouse, the 18-year-old who was acquitted by a Wisconsin jury last Friday of all charges in his fatal shooting of two men, gave his coveted first television interview Monday night to Fox News prime time host Tucker Carlson, who hailed him as “bright, honest, sincere, dutiful and hard-working — exactly the kind of person you’d want many more of in your country.”

Carlson and Rittenhouse established a friendly rapport throughout the conversation, even sharing moments of levity.

“What a sweet kid. I think that comes through loud and clear,” Carlson told Fox News viewers during a break in the interview. “Imagine putting that kid in jail.”

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Both laughed knowingly after the host made a pointed reference to how Rittenhouse “drove back across state lines, as we’re now calling it,” to turn himself in — a subtle gibe at critics who have emphasized that Rittenhouse ventured armed into the middle of a conflict in a community where he did not live — and bantered about Rittenhouse’s weight gain after leaving jail.

Rittenhouse trial:

Carlson’s fond portrait of Rittenhouse – “a working-class kid who sincerely believes in America … he tries his best to do the right thing at a time when almost no one else in the community is trying to do the right thing” — echoed the valorous framing he has received from many on the right.

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Far-right members of Congress have proclaimed that they want to hire Rittenhouse onto their staffs; a host for Newsmax, a cable channel that positions itself to the right of Fox, floated an internship offer. Carlson’s Fox colleague Sean Hannity spent much of his Friday night show encouraging Rittenhouse to pursue legal action against prominent Democrats and media figures who criticized the teenager for patrolling the chaotic streets of Kenosha, Wis., with an AR-15-style rifle during clashes prompted by a White police officer’s shooting of a Black man in August 2020.

In his sit-down with Carlson, Rittenhouse took up this line of media criticism (“The lies that they can just get away with spreading is just sickening …”), finding full-throated agreement from Carlson (“Did you know how dishonest media coverage of events could be?”).

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Carlson’s team got more than just a lengthy interview. His documentary production crew embedded with Rittenhouse during the trial and was on hand to record his reaction to his acquittal on Friday. “We had cameras behind the scenes throughout much of this case,” he said Monday. “We got a lot of footage at that trial.”

The final product will be a documentary film, “The Trial of Kyle,” that will air next month on the streaming service Fox Nation, which also broadcast his three-part series about the Jan. 6 insurrection, “Patriot Purge,” earlier this month, in which several of the participants floated an unfounded conspiracy theory that the federal government facilitated the storming of the U.S. Capitol.

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Mark Richards, one of Rittenhouse’s attorneys, said in an interview on CNN on Friday night that he objected to having a crew filming Rittenhouse in private moments during the trial. “I threw them out of the room several times,” he said. “I don’t think a film crew is appropriate for something like this.”

Over the weekend, Fox News released a statement from Carlson’s top producer, Justin Wells, who confirmed that Rittenhouse was not compensated “for any access, footage rights, legal fees or made any other payments in the production of the episode on the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.”

After the interview aired, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro joined Carlson to praise the interview and Rittenhouse himself. “This young man is far more intelligent than people wanted to give him credit for,” she said. “This is a young man who is a very empathic young man … This young man is a truth-teller. This young man is far more mature than his years.”

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During an episode of the Fox News talk show “The Five” earlier in the month, co-host Greg Gutfeld went so far as to praise Rittenhouse for shooting and killing two “violent, disgusting dirtbags” and argued that he “filled the void that the government left open.” Prosecutors argued that at least one of the men Rittenhouse killed, 26-year-old Anthony Huber, was only chasing Rittenhouse in an attempt to stop what many perceived as an “active shooter.” The other slain man, 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum, had been acting erratically before he attempted to grab Rittenhouse’s weapon, according to witnesses; he had been released from a hospital earlier in the day following a suicide attempt.

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Gutfeld’s comment did draw a rebuke from a fellow panelist: “I am not comfortable with endorsing vigilantism on any level,” said Fox News contributor Jessica Tarlov.

During an appearance Monday, Fox News correspondent Gillian Turner also criticized the valorization of Rittenhouse, illustrating some divergence of opinion on the network about how his case should be viewed.

“This case is particularly tragic because Kyle may have been acquitted, but he’s not a hero here,” she said. “There are no heroes and there are no winners. There is no victory lap for Kyle or anybody else to take.”

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