On Thursday morning at NBCNews.com, reporter Julia Ainlsey filed a story that alleged Trump officials “were told to make public comments sympathetic to Kyle Rittenhouse” after the Kenosha riots according to a Department of Homeland Security document. Across the interwebs and on TV, it was offered with the implication that Trump aides wanted an encouragement of vigilantism.
But as it turns out (and like we saw with Ainsley’s overwrought Russian reporting in the Mueller probe), the hubbub was all for naught. In actuality, a basic reading of the article and memo obtained by NewsBusters revealed what Ainsley peddled was fake news and charged DHS officials with compiling what was known about Rittenhouse’s case using — get this — news reports.
At the time of this blog’s publication, this hitjob and disgust with a government document offering facts fetched 22 minutes and 11 seconds across CBS, MSNBC, and NBC programs.
Here were the lead four graphs from Ainsley’s story “Internal document shows Trump officials were told to make comments sympathetic to Kyle Rittenhouse” prior to her quoting former DHS officials grinding the usual anti-Trump axes (click “expand”):
Federal law enforcement officials were directed to make public comments sympathetic to Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager charged with fatally shooting two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, according to internal Department of Homeland Security talking points obtained by NBC News.
In preparing Homeland Security officials for questions about Rittenhouse from the media, the document suggests that they note that he "took his rifle to the scene of the rioting to help defend small business owners."
Another set of talking points distributed to Homeland Security officials said the media were incorrectly labeling the group Patriot Prayer as racists after clashes erupted between the group and protesters in Portland, Oregon.
It is unclear whether any of the talking points originated at the White House or within Homeland Security's own press office.
NewsBusters has also learned that this DHS-compiled memo did not come from the White House, but sure, Ainsley. Stupendous job.
According to the memo (which our friends at Townhall also viewed and wrote about), the portion on Rittenhouse consisted of both a “Situation” and “Response” section with the former featuring five summaries of news reports.
In addition, the “Situation” section offered basic facts of the case such as Rittenhouse’s age, the charges he faces, his movement at the time of both shootings, and how on-the-ground video showed “there were ‘multiple gunmen’ involved, which would lend more credence to the self-defense claims.”
The main bullet point in question read as such, which merely asserted what Rittenhouse had told the Daily Caller’s Richie McGinniss the night of (and prior to) the shooting: “He took his rifle to the scene of the rioting to help defend small business owners.”
Moving to the “Response” section, there were four bullet points with perhaps the most important one being that they would not “comment on an ongoing investigation, and especially not one outside of my law enforcement jurisdiction” with another point saying Rittenhouse “is innocent until proven guilty and deserves a fair trial.”
Ainsley repeatedly claimed in MSNBC interviews that the memo signaled DHS dove into something that wasn’t their purview, but the above points undercut that. This is odd, considering MSNBC would want Rittenhouse painted as a "domestic terrorist" of some sort.
Further, sources tell NewsBusters the document was only compiled for acting Secretary Chad Wolf and Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinnelli to give them — as memos do — the best set of available facts.
According to two officials with direct knowledge, the document was prepared for the August 30 Sunday shows as, sure enough, Wolf appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation to discuss the deadly summer of violence on American streets.
None of the basic facts available (and common sense) mattered to the liberal media as, between their gaslighting that Antifa’s not something to be worried about, riots didn’t happen, and lumping conservatives and Republicans in with repugnant white supremacy and extremist groups, they couldn’t avoid their typically overwrought interpretation.
Below are a few examples of things that Ainsley, liberal journalists, and other guests said about this supposed bombshell.
Perhaps most notable was disgraced former FBI agent Peter Strzok saying the DHS memo was “extraordinarily dangerous” in that it encouraged “vigilante justice” and a call to arms and MSNBC’s Chris Hayes calling it “disturbing” and an example of the Trump “administration... justifying right-wing political violence” (click “expand”):
AINSLEY [on MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson]: It's not surprising, given the fact that President Trump has time and time again come out and supported Kyle Rittenhouse. But what is surprising and revealing from these documents is that they went to law enforcement officials throughout DHS....[T]he law enforcement officials are in lockstep with the President's talking points and not actually basing their talking points on what their own intelligence is saying, and they're also wading into an investigation that DHS has no part in and at the very early stages of this and some officials that I spoke to from both administrations who have been on the receiving end of these talking points, who have served under Republicans and Democrats, said that what really stood out to them was the fact that it's such a stark difference in how they treated Rittenhouse versus, say a left-wing demonstrator, and what they really should be doing is calling for peace and calm.
HALLIE JACKSON [on MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson]: Julia Ainsley, that is fascinating reporting and a great scoop from you.
MITCHELL [on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports]: This is pretty much extraordinary because these were detailed talking points, as I understand it....
AINSLEY [on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports]: [I]nstead of coming out and calling for calm, they called for more details on Rittenhouse, they supported him, and showed this, this is an example of how the White House and DHS were in lockstep on the political messaging around this event.
KATY TUR [on MSNBC Live with Katy Tur]: There's also a separate story that’s concerning a lot of folks out there, and this one has to do with internal Department of Homeland Security documents obtained by NBC News, and they reveal that officials at the agency were directed to make public comments that were sympathetic to Kyle Rittenhouse.
TUR [on MSNBC Live with Katy Tur]: This reporting from DHS — striking is, I guess, an understatement.
AINSLEY [on MSNBC Live with Katy Tur]: That's right, Katy. What's really striking is the difference you will see in these talking points versus how the administration talks about left-wing protesters.
NICOLLE WALLACE [on MSNBC’s Deadline: White House]: We're now learning, according to internal talking points obtained by NBC News, that federal law enforcement officials were directed to make public sympathetic comments about Rittenhouse, ones that sound very similar to the ones that the president just made there: “In preparing Homeland Security officials for questions about Rittenhouse from the media, the document suggests that they took note that he ‘took the rifle to the scene of the rioting to help defend small business owners.’” Oh, my god.
BEN TRACY [on the CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell]: And CBS News has learned an internal DHS document given to acting Secretary Chad Wolf defended 17-year-old Trump supporter Kyle Rittenhouse. He was charged with first-degree homicide for shooting protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August. The briefing document claimed Rittenhouse “took his rifle to the scene of the rioting to help defend small-business owners.”
GEOFF BENNETT [on NBC Nightly News]: That's unfolding as internal Department of Homeland Security documents exclusively obtained by NBC news revealed that officials at the agency were directed to make public comments that were sympathetic to Kyle Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse is the 17-year-old Trump supporter charged with fatally shooting two men in Kenosha, Wisconsin last month. President Trump himself has suggested Rittenhouse acted in self-defense.
JOY REID [on MSNBC’s The ReidOut]: Let me ask you something that is more about domestic politics since you have that good law enforcement background. I want to talk about this for a second. I know you're counter-intel, but federal law enforcement officials reportedly were directed to make public pronouncements sympathetic to Kyle Rittenhouse, that’s 17-year-old who’s accused of shooting two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin. We don't know, I have to say, NBC News has not confirmed whether these were done, whether these pronouncements were actually made but just the fact that there was some sort of directive, these specific talking points put out that were favorable to Kyle Rittenhouse. Have you ever seen anything like that in your time working in government?
PETER STRZOK [on MSNBC’s The ReidOut]: Joy, never. Over 20 years as an FBI agent, working a hundred, if not hundreds of cases involving people arrested and pending trial and never once was I given talking points or encouraged to talk one way or the other. This is concerning for two reasons. Justice has to be blind. Law enforcement officers, certainly of any rank anywhere in the system, don't go making comments positively or negatively about somebody’s charged with a crime. Justice is administered blindly or it should be cause DHS has all these agents who rely on their appearance of objectivity when they go about doing their investigations, just like all federal law enforcement officers.
The second thing that’s concerning about some of those talking points and I haven't read them, going off the media reporting that you’ve seen, is this, you know, kind of the statements that he was responding to protect small business owners. That could be read very much as, encouraging a sort of vigilante justice. I know one of your folks who was speaking used that term and I think that's exactly right and that sort of undertone or undercurrent of encouraging people to take up the law in their hands is extraordinarily dangerous. I've worked with hundreds of law enforcement agencies all around this nation, they do their job well. They keep the peace well. They don't need folks taking up arms and trying to do one thing or another to maintain the peace and having talking points that encourages something other than that is extraordinarily dangerous.
CHRIS HAYES [on MSNBC’s All In]: Today, NBC News published a disturbing report on an internal document from the Department of Homeland Security saying Trump officials were told to make comments sympathetic to Kyle Rittenhouse. That would be the 17-year-old Trump supporter charged with shooting and killing two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin who fled the state after that happened. The DHS talking points emphasize the right wing narrative that Rittenhouse “took his rifle to the scene of the rioting to help defend small business owners.” The administration seems intent on justifying right-wing political violence while the President himself is sending wink, wink, nudge, nudge, encouragement to armed and dangerous groups.
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