Trump defends Kenosha shooter charged with homicide as Biden decries violence ‘on the left or the right’
After weeks of patently false claims that Joe Biden hasn’t condemned violence and looting stemming from protests across the country, President Donald Trump on Monday refused to condemn the 17-year-old Illinoisan charged with shooting and killing two protesters in Kenosha.
“We’re looking at all of it,” Trump said. “That was an interesting situation.”
That “interesting situation” involve an assault-style-rifle-toting teen named Kyle Rittenhouse, a Trump supporter, who allegedly shot three protesters, killing two. He is charged with first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide and several other counts.
Trump continued: “You saw the same tape as I saw. And he was trying to get away from them. I guess it looks like he fell and then they very violently attacked him.”
The president neglected to note that Rittenhouse was being chased after he had already shot someone.
We’ve come to expect this from Trump, who has an unbroken streak of not speaking ill of white people who support him (or Russian presidents who support him).
Earlier in the day, Biden gave a speech in Pittsburgh that posed a question many honest Americans are asking: “Does anyone believe that there’d be less violence in America if Trump was re-elected?”
That question follows a weekend in which a Trump-supporting man associated with a far-right group called Patriot Prayers was shot dead on the street in Portland. It was a ghastly crime, as inexcusable as the double homicide in Kenosha that left a third protester injured.
But look at Biden’s response and Trump’s response and ask yourself which person is more likely to calm the waters.
In the immediate wake of the murder in Portland, Biden released a statement that read in part: “The deadly violence we saw overnight in Portland is unacceptable. Shooting in the streets of a great American city is unacceptable. I condemn this violence unequivocally. I condemn violence of every kind by any one, whether on the left or the right. And I challenge Donald Trump to do the same. It does not matter if you find the political views of your opponents abhorrent, any loss of life is a tragedy.”
In his Monday speech, Biden said: “Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting. It’s lawlessness — plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted.”
On Aug. 26, Biden condemned the rioting and looting that happened in Kenosha after the police shooting of Jacob Blake: “Protesting brutality is a right and absolutely necessary, but burning down communities is not protest, it’s needless violence, violence that endangers lives, violence that guts businesses and shutters businesses that serve the community. That’s wrong.”
In a speech on June 2, Biden spoke about violence in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd: “But there is no place for violence. No place for looting or destroying property or burning churches, or destroying businesses — many of them built by people of color who for the first time were beginning to realize their dreams and build wealth for their families. ... We need to distinguish between legitimate peaceful protest — and opportunistic violent destruction.”
So how about Trump’s reaction to the weekend murder in Portland?
The Washington Post detailed Trump’s Sunday response like this: “Starting before 6 a.m., Trump let loose a barrage of nearly 90 tweets and retweets touting his chances for re-election, attacking Democratic state and local officials over ongoing protests, and defending aggressive actions by his supporters in Portland, who appeared to be firing paintballs and pepper spray at people from pickup trucks as they drove through city streets on Saturday night.”
The president (of the previously United States of America) retweeted, without any context, a video that showed a Black man assaulting a white woman on a subway platform in New York City. The tweet blamed the incident on “Black Lives Matter /Antifa,” though the attack happened in 2019 and involved a serial offender who had no connection to Black Lives Matter or antifa. And the tweet the president shared came from a well-known white nationalist conspiracy theorist.
On Twitter that same day, the president referred to Black Lives Matters protesters as “agitators and thugs.” But it was all praise for the caravan of Trump supporters that descended on Portland, which included members of violent far-right groups like the Proud Boys. They drove huge trucks and waved Trump flags while shooting paintballs and spraying mace at protesters. Trump hailed them as “GREAT PATRIOTS!”
Most telling of all, of course, was the president’s defense of Rittenhouse. It’s notable this president only plays defense attorney when there’s a violent offender who supports him. Fine people on both sides, and all that.
The bottom line is this: President Trump blaming civil unrest in America on not-president Biden is one part time travel, one part authoritarian projection. But Trump’s tough-guy claim that he alone can end civil unrest is like a fox with a mouthful of feathers saying he alone can protect the henhouse.
Outgoing White House dishonesty spewer Kellyanne Conway said the quiet part out loud recently: “The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety and law and order.”
Take that, and then take these words from Biden’s statement after this weekend’s violence: “The job of a president is to lower the temperature. To bring people who disagree with one another together. To make life better for all Americans, not just those who agree with us, support us, or vote for us.”
Who do you think is more likely to bring calm? The one ginning up fear, retweeting racist videos and propping up pro-Trump caravans like they’re mobile Reichstag fires? Or the one who has consistently condemned violence and destruction, regardless of which side was responsible?