Does Kyle Rittenhouse have a legal case against US President Joe Biden?
- Kyle Rittenhouse said Joe Biden had defamed his character after the teen's arrest in the Kenosha shootings
- The remarks led to speculation that Rittenhouse could sue the US President for defamation
- White House press secretary Jen Psaki dodged a question on Biden apologising to Rittenhouse
Kyle Rittenhouse, who was recently acquitted in the killing of two men and the wounding of another during protests and riots against police brutality in Wisconsin in August 2020, has blamed US President Joe Biden for "defaming" his character and acting with "actual malice." Rittenhouse was referring to a video posted by the then-presidential hopeful on Twitter, which purportedly tried to depict the teenager as a white supremacist following his arrest on homicide charges last year.
The clip showed footage of a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 and Trump telling members of Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by" during a televised presidential debate in September 2020. The video also included an image of Rittenhouse armed with a semiautomatic rifle taken from the Black Lives Matter protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Rittenhouse's remarks against Biden during his interview with Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson prompted multiple conservative figures and attorneys to suggest he could take legal action against the president.
Neama Rahmani, a former assistant US attorney and current president and co-founder of West Coast Trial Lawyers, said that Biden would not be able to use "executive privilege as a defense against a defamation lawsuit from Kyle Rittenhouse" since he was campaigning for president at the time of the tweet in question, reports Newsweek.
Barbara McQuade, a University of Michigan law professor and former US attorney in Detroit, told Newsweek that winning a defamation suit against Biden will not be easy for Rittenhouse.
"First, it is very unlikely that the person who created the ad or tweeted it was Biden himself. Any lawsuit would need to be filed against the person or people who published it," McQuade said.
Second, she added, Rittenhouse "voluntarily became a limited purpose public figure" by inserting himself into the civil unrest in Kenosha, "which subjects defamation claims against him to the actual malice standard."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday deflected a question on whether “the president would ever apologize” to Rittenhouse for the clip, saying it was “about a campaign video released last year that used President Trump’s own words during a debate as he refused to condemn white supremacists and militia groups."