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Police stand near a garbage truck ablaze during protests over the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha on Aug. 24, 2020 Police stand near a garbage truck ablaze during protests over the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha on Aug. 24, 2020

Police stand near a garbage truck ablaze during protests over the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha on Aug. 24, 2020

Eric Litke
By Eric Litke September 23, 2020

In a Fox News segment built around new Kenosha shooting video from Kyle Rittenhouse’s legal defense team, TV personality Tucker Carlson provided a lengthy narration on what has happened in the southeastern Wisconsin city.

But viewers were repeatedly misled.

Kenosha has been central to the national dialogue on police, race relations and protests since 29-year-old Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot in the back seven times by a white police officer on Aug. 23, 2020.

That sparked protests and violence, which came to a head two days later when 17-year-old Rittenhouse, an Illinois teen who was patrolling the streets with other armed people, shot three protesters — two fatally — in a series of nighttime confrontations. He has been charged with two counts of homicide and one count of attempted homicide.

Carlson’s seven-minute segment on Sept. 22, 2020, recounts some of this context, but gets a lot of the details wrong.

Here are some of the descriptions that stood out to us, and how they line up with what we know at this point.

"Last month much of the city of Kenosha, Wisconsin, burned to the ground. … What had been a peaceful middle-class city was destroyed."

These descriptions, leading off the video, are extremely exaggerated.

They echo descriptions from President Donald Trump, who said on Twitter Aug. 31, 2020, there would "be no Kenosha" if he hadn’t called in the National Guard (which he didn’t actually do), and said he came in to "see the town is burned down."

Here’s how we addressed this in giving Trump a Pants on Fire rating for the National Guard claim:

The events in Kenosha have been tragic and shocking. But there’s a big difference between protests damaging a limited area and destroying or altering a large portion of a city of 100,000 people.

The protests, even at the peak of the unrest Aug. 25, were largely concentrated in the 1-acre Civic Park and a nearby area a few blocks wide. Though people spilled into nearby neighborhoods after the largest groups were dispersed.

That drastically exaggerates the scope of the situation in Kenosha, a city of 28.4 square miles, even at its worst.

"Police say (Blake) reached for a knife. Police then shot him in response."

Carlson is describing the events leading up to Blake’s shooting, and he’s simply not telling the truth. Police have not said Blake was reaching for a knife.

The role of a knife remains muddled at this point, as authorities have yet to release details amid the ongoing Wisconsin Department of Justice investigation. Video taken by onlookers shows something in Blake’s hand, but the resolution is low, so it could be a knife, sunglasses or something else.

The DOJ has said a knife was found in Blake’s SUV after the shooting, but they haven’t said how it got there or if Blake held it at some point. An account of the Blake incident from the Kenosha Professional Police Association asserts Blake was holding a knife during the confrontation with police.

The man who said he made the widely shared cellphone video of the shooting, 22-year-old Raysean White, told the Associated Press he heard officers yell, "Drop the knife! Drop the knife!" as they scuffled with Blake before the shooting. 

But White said he didn’t see a knife in Blake’s hands. The audio captured by White is inconclusive, though there is a phrase or two that could be interpreted as "drop the knife."

In short, the knife could have been in Blake’s hand, on the floor of the SUV the whole time or something else. Carlson’s claim that Blake was reaching for a knife when he was shot is not supported by the evidence released so far, and it most certainly is wrong to attribute that information to police.

"Mobs of Biden voters destroyed businesses and churches, they torched car lots and furniture stores."

This is a loaded way to describe protesters, to say the least.

Carlson refers to this group as "(Joe) Biden voters" as if that were the primary characteristic that identified the group or spurred it to act as it did.

To be sure, supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement lean heavily Democratic. A Pew Research Center poll conducted Sept. 8 to 13 found 16% of white adults who are Republican or Republican-leaning strongly or somewhat strongly support the Black Lives Matter movement, compared to 88% of white adults identifying as Democrats or Democrat-leaning.

But, of course, there is no data on the actual political makeup of the segment of protesters in Kenosha responsible for the violence and looting. And the vast majority of protesters weren’t involved in activities like this.

"Hamstrung by local politicians, police did little to stop the destruction" 

Carlson asserts here that 1.) police did little and 2.) it was due to "local politicians." We aren’t aware of any evidence supporting either point. 

Video recorded throughout the protests showed a significant law enforcement presence in the area. It’s impossible to say comprehensively what precisely police did or should have done about property damage.

But we know a large number of officers were present.

On Aug. 24 — the day after the Blake shooting and the first full day of protests — local law enforcement was already joined by 125 National Guard troops from the state’s Quick Reaction Force, as well as 100 police officers from neighboring jurisdictions, officials have said. Seventy State Patrol officers joined the group on Aug. 25. The National Guard presence grew to 500 by Aug. 26 and 1,500 by Aug. 28, as troops from Arizona, Alabama and Michigan arrived to help. 

And we know we’ve seen no reports that actions by local officials limited the law enforcement actions or rollout. Gov. Tony Evers worked with the National Guard in Wisconsin and other states to steadily increase the law enforcement presence as the protests continued.

"For the last month there’s been an enormous amount of propaganda surrounding this case, and virtually all of it has come from the left."

The Blake and Rittenhouse shootings and surrounding protests ignited a firestorm of commentary on social media and cable news alike.

Fact-checkers have flagged and debunked all manner of false statements made in defense of Blake and in criticism of Blake; in defense of Rittenhouse and in criticism of Rittenhouse.

Whether one labels it propaganda, misinformation or exaggeration, no single party has anywhere near a monopoly on it.

"At this point the mob turns on Kyle Rittenhouse, they assault him. It’s clear they plan to kill him."

Carlson is describing what happened after Rittenhouse fired four shots while being confronted by Joseph Rosenbaum. The 36-year-old died of his gunshot wounds.

The video presented as proof of this description shows Rittenhouse running away from a group of people. A criminal complaint says witnesses’ video appears to show people yelling phrases including "Beat him up!" and "Get that dude!" as several people yell that Rittenhouse shot someone. Several people then step up to strike Rittenhouse in quick succession. One swings at his head with a fist. Another jumps toward him. Another hits him with a skateboard and tries to grab his rifle. Another lunges toward Rittenhouse with a gun in his hand. Rittenhouse shoots two of those people, killing one.

It’s a tragic, violent scene, but Carlson, of course, can’t know whether the group intended to kill RIttenhouse. People critical of Rittenhouse note the actions could be seen as attempting to disarm a man viewed as a threat, since he had just shot another protester.

And prosecutors have charged Rittenhouse with homicide, among other charges, indicating they do not believe he was acting in self-defense.

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