Rittenhouse Lawyer Puts Biden Campaign on Notice for Defamation Suit

Rittenhouse Lawyer Puts Biden Campaign on Notice for Defamation Suit
Kyle Rittenhouse, left, with backwards cap, walks along Sheridan Road in Kenosha, Wis., with another armed civilian, on Aug. 25, 2020. (Adam Rogan/The Journal Times via AP)
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The Lawyer representing the family of Kyle Rittenhouse asked the presidential campaign of former Vice President Joe Biden to preserve records related to a recent campaign video. The video is defamatory to Rittenhouse and the records thus need to be preserved for potential litigation, the lawyer, Lin Wood, said in an Oct. 2 letter to the campaign.

The letter asks the campaign to delete the video from the internet, issue a retraction, and apologize. Otherwise, Wood will file the suit, the letter implies.

Rittenhouse, 17, faces murder charges for shooting three people, two fatally, during recent riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Videos from the scene indicate all three people chased Rittenhouse before he shot them. One, according to a witness filming the incident, tried to grab his gun; one was filmed striking him with a skateboard after he had tripped and fallen; and one pointed a gun at him. Rittenhouse’s lawyers said he fired in self defense in all three cases.

Biden’s video showed a montage of clips including a 2017 neo-Nazi demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, other demonstrations, as well as a static image of Rittenhouse. The clips are overlaid with audio of President Donald Trump being asked “to condemn white supremacists and militia groups” during the recent presidential debate.

Biden’s Twitter account posted the video with a comment, “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.”

The juxtaposition of the audio, video, and Biden’s comment “conveys the false and defamatory impression that Mr. Biden’s inflammatory words and Kyle’s picture are meaningfully related—that is, that Kyle is a white supremacist, a member of a militia group or was involved in the violence perpetrated on people and property in Kenosha and Portland in recent weeks,” Wood said.

“Every one of these inferences is capable of being and would reasonably be construed by the average viewer to mean that Kyle engaged in reprehensible and unlawful conduct.”

In fact, Wood said, Rittenhouse is neither a white supremacist nor a militia member, the charges against him for the shootings in Kenosha are false, and he didn’t participate in the Portland protests and riots.

“Defamation is a serious matter,” Wood said. “Defamation by a national political figure that is broadcast to and seen and relayed again and again my [sic] millions of people is far more serious.”

What the Biden campaign did is yet more serious, the lawyer said, because it “threatens [an] American citizen’s right to a fair trial.”

“What jury can possibly sit in a fair judgement after what Mr. Biden has done to Kyle Rittenhouse?” he asked, noting that the video has been seen millions of times already.

Wood asked the campaign to preserve all documents, including internal communications, “relating in any way, no matter how remote” to Biden’s “accusations against Kyle.”

The Biden campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Wood is also representing Nick Sandmann, who has sued multiple media companies for misconstruing his interaction with a native American activist after the 2019 March for Life in Washington, D.C. Sandmann was 16 at the time. Of his six lawsuits, two have been settled so far—one with CNN and another with The Washington Post.

Biden’s video focused on Trump’s reaction when Biden asked him to condemn The Proud Boys during the debate.

“Proud Boys. Stand back and stand by,” Trump said.

Proud Boys is a self-described conservative men’s club. It’s members come from various ethnic and racial backgrounds. Its official tenets denounce racism and only condone violence in self defense. Its members have been caught on video engaging in fights, often with members of anarcho-communist group Antifa. It’s often difficult to discern who initiated the fights.

Trump condemned Proud Boys after the debate, though noting that he doesn’t know much about the group.

The debate exchange started when the moderator, Fox News’ Chris Wallace, asked Trump if he would denounce white supremacists and militia groups “and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities, as we saw in Kenosha, as we’ve seen in Portland? Are you prepared specifically to do that?”

“Sure, I’m prepared to do it,” Trump responded. “ I would say, almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing.”

When pushed to spell out the condemnation, Trump asked who specifically he should condemn. While he has denounced white supremacists many times in the past, he’s never spoken against militias writ large. There are more than 500 militia groups in the United States. Most of them are right-leaning and haven’t engaged in any unlawful activities.