USA TODAY: Kyle Rittenhouse Campus Speeches Raise 'Free Speech' Questions

April 27th, 2024 7:04 PM

This will grab your attention. At the bottom of the front page of Thursday’s USA Today was this headline:

Shooter Rittenhouse’s tour draws outrage

College gun-rights events raise questions about free speech and its impact

USA Today thinks pro-gun-rights speech “raises questions”? The online headline was even stronger:

Kyle Rittenhouse, deadly shooter, college speaker? A campus gun-rights tour sparks outrage

As in: Who’s approving this speech on campus? A video in the online story shows “hundreds of protesters” at the University of Memphis. “Students celebrated his departure with live music and dancing on campus.” They forced Rittenhouse to leave early. This is a triumph in the media's eyes? 

Reporter Cybele Mayes-Osterman sounded like an editorial writer from the beginning:

Kyle Rittenhouse is not a typical college campus speaker.

In 2020, at the age of 17, he took an AR-15-style rifle to a Black Lives Matter demonstration and fired it, killing two people and injuring a third. Rittenhouse said he pulled the trigger in self-defense and was acquitted of wrongdoing.

He has since penned a book, “Acquitted,” and has set out on a series of college speaking events dubbed the "Rittenhouse Recap." He is slated to appear Thursday at Clemson University in South Carolina.

Rittenhouse is selling books, and ostensibly promoting the right to bear arms on campus, but he’s also trying to persuade young people to join the conservative movement. The key group behind the appearances, Turning Point USA, is led by the self-described “youth director” of President Donald Trump’s first campaign and a key ally rallying votes for Trump this year.

(I left in their links, because the reporters don't tend to say Rittenhouse "shot in self-defense," just that he shot people, and that police shot Jacob Blake, but not that he was reaching for a knife.)

Who's letting speakers persuade students to become conservatives? Is that where the national newspapers "raise questions about free speech and its impact"? The tour promoter is the Trump-loving Turning Point USA, which is more salt in the USA Today free-speech wound: 

The provocative choice of backing the Rittenhouse tour is par for the course for Turning Point and its local affiliates, which have hosted controversial figures like Nick Fuentes, a white nationalist and Holocaust denier. But it has stirred up devastating pain and disdain in a man he almost killed.

"He has used every moment to gloat and to make light of taking life," Paul Prediger said, speaking publicly for the first time about what happened in protest of a Rittenhouse speech last week at Kent State

The ADL said Fuentes appeared once at Iowa State in 2019, and the local TPUSA leader resigned over it. But "Prediger" has changed his name from Gaige Grosskreutz. A few paragraphs later, the paper acknowledges Rittenhouse tweeted a video with Prediger/Grosskreutz "admitting he pointed a gun in Rittenhouse's direction before being shot." 

USA Today clearly finds the Rittenhouse speaking tour as more objectionable than pro-Hamas protesters creating encampments across the country as their leaders speak of violence against the "Zionists." Their cause isn't lead by some conservative white boy beloved by Trump voters.