News & Politics

PolitiFact Stands By Their Rittenhouse Illegal Weapon Fact Check

Mark Hertzberg/Pool Photo via AP

Judge Bruce Schroeder threw out one of the charges against 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse on Monday, in the midst of a trial that has grabbed the nation’s attention this month. The charge involved the allegation that Rittenhouse possessed a dangerous weapon as a minor.

The fact-checkers at PolitiFact have been invested in this charge for over a year now. Last August, as part of their fact-checking agreement with Facebook, PolitiFact writer Daniel Funke took a Facebook user to task for suggesting that Rittenhouse carried the rifle legally.

In an Aug. 27 post, one Facebook user said it was “perfectly legal” for Kyle Rittenhouse — who was arrested in Antioch, Ill., after fleeing Wisconsin — to brandish an assault-style rifle on the streets of Kenosha.

“Carrying a rifle across state lines is perfectly legal,” the poster said. “Based on the laws I can find of this area at 17 years old Kyle was perfectly legal to be able to possess that rifle without parental supervision.”

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Funke went on to rate the claim as false — but vaguely:

Whether Rittenhouse violated Wisconsin law by possessing a firearm underage is the subject of ongoing litigation. But the Facebook post claimed that it was “perfectly legal” for the teenager to carry an assault-style rifle in Kenosha.

At best, that’s unproven. At worst, it’s inaccurate. Either way, we rate the post False.

It sounds like a debate over semantics. Would the poster have gotten away with it if he hadn’t used the adverb “perfectly”? Who knows? Are we really basing fact checks on word games now? After all, the original post isn’t from a journalist or someone otherwise in the media. The poster was an average citizen expressing her opinion.

Related: As the Media Focuses on Kyle Rittenhouse, Another Trial Should Also Have Your Attention

PolitiFact stepped back into the debate on Tuesday after Judge Schroeder dropped the charge against Rittenhouse. This time, the site amended its original article with an “editor’s note” that’s almost as long as the original post.

The amendment to the original article reads like a “well…yes…but…”

Judge Bruce Schroeder recently dismissed a misdemeanor charge of possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18 against Kyle Rittenhouse.

Readers asked us if this made the fact-check below invalid. We don’t think so. Here’s why. 

In August 2020, we fact-checked a claim that it was “perfectly legal” for Rittenhouse to possess an AR-15 without parental supervision. Our reporting found that it was far from perfectly legal, and that it was, in fact, legally murky. That’s why we rated the claim False.

PolitiFact continues playing word games with the phrase “perfectly legal”:

These subsequent events show the grey areas of local gun laws — hardly a case of something being “perfectly legal.” Our fact-check remains unchanged.

I can’t help but wonder about this fact check and PolitiFact’s doubling down on it. Is PolitiFact concerned more with the “Politi” than with the “Fact”? Are they content with playing adverb police?

Or are they just unwilling to be caught with egg on their face?

For more coverage of the Kyle Rittenhouse case, please check PJ Media colleague Victoria Taft’s reporting.