Since his acquittal last week on all charges stemming from the 2020 shootings that killed two people and severely injured another during Black Lives Matter protests in Kenosha, Wis., Kyle Rittenhouse has made several public appearances, granting sit-down interviews with cable news hosts Tucker Carlson and Ashleigh Banfield and meeting with former President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago, where he and Trump smiled as they posed for a thumbs-up photo.
"Kyle, I got to know him a little bit," Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity in an interview that aired Tuesday night. "He called, he wanted to know if he could come over and say hello 'cause he was a fan."
The former president said that Rittenhouse, 18, was accompanied by his mother at Mar-a-Lago.
"He's a really good young guy," Trump said.
Rittenhouse was 17 when he carried an AR-style semiautomatic rifle on the streets of Kenosha during a turbulent protest that erupted after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, in the summer of 2020. On Aug. 25, Rittenhouse, who had volunteered to protect a car lot, opened fire on demonstrators, killing Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and seriously wounding Gaige Grosskreutz. He was found not guilty Friday on all five felony counts stemming from the shootings, including first-degree intentional homicide.
"That was prosecutorial misconduct," Trump said of the case against Rittenhouse. "He should have not have had to suffer through a trial for that. He was going to be dead."
"If he didn't pull that trigger, that guy that put the gun to his head, in one-quarter of a second, he was going to pull the trigger," the former president added. "Kyle would have been dead."
Rittenhouse took the stand toward the end of the two-week trial, arguing that he acted in self-defense by opening fire on demonstrators who, he claimed, were trying to attack him.
"I didn't do anything wrong. I defended myself," he said during his own lengthy and, at times, emotional testimony.
In his interview with Carlson, portions of which aired Monday, Rittenhouse insisted that he isn't a racist and that he supports the Black Lives Matter movement.
"This case has nothing to do with race. It never had anything to do with race. It had to do with the right to self-defense," he said. "I'm not a racist person. I support the BLM movement. I support peacefully demonstrating."
In his interview with Banfield, which aired Tuesday on NewsNation, the teen was asked about the offers for internships he's received from far-right members of Congress, including Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., and Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., among others.
"I do not plan on accepting any internships," Rittenhouse said. "I do not want to get involved in politics at all."
He was also asked about a photo with purported members of the Proud Boys and making a hand gesture used by white supremacists.
"I didn't know that the OK hand sign was a symbol for white supremacy, just as I didn't know those people in the bar were Proud Boys," Rittenhouse said. "They were set up by my former attorney, who was fired because of that, for putting me in situations like that with people I don't agree with."
Rittenhouse said pro-Trump attorney Lin Wood was fired for his embrace of the QAnon conspiracy and for pushing the baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen.
"He was going on with all this QAnon and election fraud stuff and stuff we don't agree with," Rittenhouse said. "He's insane."
Mark Richards, Rittenhouse's lead defense attorney, has been making the rounds on cable news too.
In an interview with Fox News host Martha MacCallum, Richards criticized the GOP lawmakers using Rittenhouse's name for their own political gain and offered his client some advice.
"My advice would be for him to change his name and start his life over," Richards said.
In his interview with Banfield, Rittenhouse said he is, in fact, considering changing his name — as well as his appearance.
"I am considering changing my name and growing a beard, maybe," Rittenhouse said. "Losing some weight — I gained it all back during this stressful time."