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White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday refused to retract comments by President Biden characterizing 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse as a White supremacist.
During her daily press briefing, Fox News’ Peter Doocy asked whether the president would be willing to apologize for alluding that Rittenhouse is a White supremacist on two separate occasions during the 2020 presidential race.
Press secretary Jen Psaki speaks with reporters at the White House on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
“This is 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,” Psaki responded. “And President Trump, as we know from history, and as many of you covered, didn’t just refuse to condemn militia groups on the debate stage, he encouraged them throughout his presidency.
“So, you know, what we’ve seen are the tragic consequences of that – when people think it’s OK to take the law into their own hands instead of allowing law enforcement to do its job,” she said. “And the president believes in condemning hatred, division and violence. That’s exactly what was done in that video.”
During his presidential campaign, Biden shared an image of Rittenhouse in a video he tweeted attempting to link Trump to White supremacists. He also attempted to paint Rittenhouse as a White supremacist during a CNN appearance before the election.
President Joe Biden walks to the West Wing from Marine One on the South Lawn off the White House on Nov. 21, 2021, in Washington. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
“I don’t know enough to know whether that 17-year-old kid, exactly what he did,” Biden said in August 2020. “Allegedly he’s part of a militia coming out in the state of Illinois. Have you ever heard the president say one negative thing about White supremacists? Have you ever heard it?”
Doocy asked Psaki about that statement on Tuesday, saying, “None of this was proven in the trial. And Kyle Rittenhouse is saying that the president had actual malice in defaming his character. Is that what happened here?”
“The president spoke to the verdict last week,” Psaki answered. “He has obviously condemned the hatred and division and violence we’ve seen around the country by groups like the Proud Boys and groups that that individual has posted photos with. But beyond that, I’ll leave it to his comments around the verdict.”
A Wisconsin jury last week acquitted Rittenhouse in the fatal shooting of two men during a riot last year in Kenosha.
Biden said Friday that the verdict “will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included,” but that the jury’s decision must be respected.
Rittenhouse later told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson that he felt his character had been defamed by the president.