President Joe Biden said he is "angry and concerned" over the verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial following a jury's decision to acquit the Illinois teenager of all charges Friday afternoon.
In a statement issued Friday afternoon, the president legitimized the feelings of outrage that some may have in response to the not-guilty verdict but asked Americans to acknowledge the fact that the "jury has spoken."
Biden also requested that those upset over the trial's outcome "express their views peacefully," adding that "violence and destruction have no place in our democracy." Nevertheless, he pledged to the state of Wisconsin "any assistance needed to ensure public safety," as many fear the verdict could spark more rioting in Kenosha and across the country.
Below is the statement in full:
While the verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken. I ran on a promise to bring Americans together, because I believe that what unites us is far greater than what divides us. I know that we're not going to heal our country's wounds overnight, but I remain steadfast in my commitment to do everything in my power to ensure that every American is treated equally, with fairness and dignity, under the law.
I urge everyone to express their views peacefully, consistent with the rule of law. Violence and destruction of property have no place in our democracy. The White House and Federal authorities have been in contact with Governor Evers's office to prepare for any outcome in this case, and I have spoken with the Governor this afternoon and offered support and any assistance needed to ensure public safety.
Arriving back at the White House after undergoing a routine colonoscopy at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the president initially told reporters, "I stand by what the jury has concluded. The jury system works and we have to abide by it."
During the brief exchange, Biden declined to reiterate claims he made last year describing Rittenhouse as a white supremacist, Axios reported.
After 26 hours of deliberation, jurors found Rittenhouse not guilty on five counts Friday — including first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree attempted intentional homicide, and two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment.
Biden's reasoned initial response as the sitting president stands in complete contrast to remarks he made as a presidential candidate last September shortly after the incidents occurred.
Long before the facts of the case had been investigated, Biden tweeted a derogatory video that flashed images of Rittenhouse carrying an AR-15, and above the video, he wrote, "There's no other way to put it: the President of the United States refused to disavow white supremacists on the debate stage last night."
When asked about the president's remarks during Rittenhouse's trial this week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki refused to denounce "the president's past comments," but added, "We shouldn't have, broadly speaking, vigilantes patrolling our communities with assault weapons."
Why does it matter?
The president's most recent statement will hopefully serve to disarm widespread negative reaction to Rittenhouse's acquittal, which many fear will spark more rioting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and elsewhere around the country.
But bringing peace and calm was far from the president's mind last year when he joined his Democratic counterparts in Congress and in the media to foment anger and push the unfounded narrative that branded Rittenhouse a white supremacist vigilante.
His words have not been forgotten.
Republican Sen. Tom Cotton tweeted on Friday that Biden should "publicly apologize" to Rittenhouse. And during the trial, the teen's mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, left open the option of suing Biden for defamation.
"Our lawyers are gonna handle that," she said when asked by Fox News reporters if her son's defense team would file lawsuits against powerful Americans such as Biden for "interfering in the justice system" and "defaming" her son.
Later, she suggested that Biden defamed her son "for the votes."