Donald Trump has faced accusations that he showed more support to Kyle Rittenhouse than victims of half a dozen mass shooting that happened during his presidency – including in Parkland, Florida, and El Paso, Texas – after pictures emerged of the duo.
“Kyle Rittenhouse has already gotten more support from Trump than the families of the victims of any mass shootings,” author John Pavlovitz tweeted of Mr Rittenhouse’s meeting with Mr Trump at Mar-a-Lago, in Florida, on Monday.
“Republican politicians are falling over themselves to praise him [Mr Rittenhouse]. If you’re still voting Republican, you’re wrong.”
Mr Trump told Fox News’s Sean Hannity on Tuesday night that Mr Rittenhouse had asked to visit him at Mar-a-Lago following his trial, and that “he came over with his mother” and was a ”really a nice young man.”
The Illinois teenager was found not guilty on Friday of shooting two men dead and injuring another during demonstrations against police brutality and racism in Kenosha.
The acquittal has been widely described as an injustice for Black Americans and a rebuttal of advocates for tighter gun control in the US, where Mr Rittenhouse’s trial has been hailed by right-wing commentators and Republicans in Congress as an act of self defence.
“What he went through...that was prosecutorial misconduct.,” Mr Trump alleged on Tuesday. “He shouldn’t have to suffer through a trial for that. He was going to be dead.”
Mr Trump, who promised he would do more following twin tragedies in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, on a weekend in August 2019, went on to argue that the teenager “didn’t pull that trigger” he “would’ve been dead.”
The remarks follow a long-running feud between Mr Trump and survivors of the Parkland shooting, in which 17 people were killed in February 2018 by a lone gunman.
The victims were among 155 killed in mass shootings during Mr Trump’s administration (in which there were ten or more victims).
On Twitter on Wednesday, one critic of Mr Trump wrote: “Remember as president Trump sat with survivors of the Parkland shooting, just about promising he would look into the gun violence. Here’s the results.”
“Remember the Trump photop after El Paso mass shooting with him and Melania smiling with thumbs up and infant whose parents were killed in that mass shooting?,” wrote another Twitter user. “Talk about bad optics”.
On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki meanwhile defended remarks from US President Joe Biden last year that acccused Mr Trump of inciting acts of white supremacist violence.
A video shared by Mr Biden on Twitter featured Mr Rittenhouse, who faces allegations of posing with members of the far-right Proud Boys militia.
Ms Psaki told reporters that Mr Biden “spoke to the verdict last week, he has obviously condemned the hatred and division and violence we’ve seen around the country [committed] by groups like the Proud Boys, and groups that that individual has posed in photos with”.
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