President Joe Biden offered only brief comments on the verdict in the explosive Kyle Rittenhouse trial Friday, saying he stood by what jurors had decided.
“I stand by what the jury has concluded,” he told reporters after arriving back at the White House. “The jury system works and we have to abide by it.”
Kyle Rittenhouse shot three people ― and killed two ― during a protest last year in Wisconsin. He was found not guilty on all charges on Friday.
Biden’s remarks Friday came when a reporter asked him whether he stood by his past comments equating Rittenhouse with white supremacists.
In September 2020, Biden’s Twitter account posted a video condemning white supremacy and included a picture of Rittenhouse.
Biden didn’t answer the question directly, instead offering his remarks about the jury’s verdict.
The White House later put out a lengthier statement from Biden that said the president felt “angry and concerned” and urged people not to become violent:
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.
Rittenhouse shot the three men at a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last summer following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man. Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time, said he went armed with an AK-style semi-automatic weapon to protect property from rioters.
The jury deliberated for four days before coming to its decision Friday afternoon and seemed to accept Rittenhouse’s argument that he was acting in self-defense. The prosecution presented witnesses, however, who undercut that narrative and questioned whether Rittenhouse was ever in any real danger.
He faced six charges, including charges of first-degree reckless homicide and first-degree reckless endangerment.
Biden’s comments stand in sharp contrast to some others in his party, who were far more critical about the workings of the judicial system.
“What we are witnessing is a system functioning as designed and protecting those it was designed for,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) tweeted. “My heart still breaks for the communities and families whose grief now compounds, and the countless others who will be denied and deprived in similar scenes across the country.”
Rep. Jimmy Gomez (Calif.) called the verdict “outrageous,” saying, “It underscores the double standards in our institutions—where vigilantes can murder with impunity while protesters are treated like criminals.”
“An unsurprising verdict due to systemic inequity in the justice system,” added Rep. Joaquin Castro (Texas), “but it’s still deeply shameful.”