Bill Ackman is just as invested in Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial as the rest of the country.
The billionaire Pershing Square hedge fund manager has been tweeting in defense of Kyle Rittenhouse, who is on trial for fatally shooting two men and wounding a third during the protests against police brutality that broke out in Kenosha, Wis., last year after Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot and injured by a white police officer.
Rittenhouse, if convicted, could face life in prison. Meanwhile, the trial has become a political flashpoint and the latest public referendum on race and the American legal system.
Ackman posted a series of tweets on Thursday defending Rittenhouse, 18. Ackman tweeted that he and his wife, Neri Oxman, had watched several hours of Rittenhouse’s testimony this week, concluding on Twitter, “We came away believing that #Kyle is telling the truth and that he acted in self defense.”
He also described Rittenhouse as a “civid-minded patriot,” but noted that the media coverage of the incident had given him a different first impression of the defendant.
“Media and political bias are dividing our country and destroying lives,” he added. “While we have not heard the entire trial, based on our assessment of Kyle on the stand, we believe that he will be found innocent.”
The thread has drawn tens of thousands of “likes” on Twitter, but also thousands of comments split on whether followers agree with Ackman’s assessment of Rittenhouse’s innocence or not.
“Cool. For your next thread defend him loading an AR-15, bringing it into a car to cross state lines in order to confront protestors bringing attention to the unfair treatment of US citizens in regards to policing,” wrote one critic.
“You’re going to get attacked for this. But you’re right,” tweeted another user in support.
“Why do billionaires think the have the moral authority to comment on everything? Serious question,” wrote a person from the third camp that thinks Ackman should have just stayed quiet.
Ackman may be a strange bedfellow for some of Rittenhouse’s supporters. When pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, Ackman tweeted at then-President Trump, “It is time for you to resign and apologize to all Americans.”
In fact, so many people were surprised that Ackman came out in support of Rittenhouse, that media outlets contacted him to see if his Twitter account was hacked, he said.
“The reporter couldn’t conceive of the idea that I could believe that Kyle is innocent because I am not a right winger. Crazy,” he tweeted.
Ackman also noted in his Twitter thread that, “With respect to my own political bias, I am not a gun owner, nor a member of the NRA. On balance, I support stronger gun regulations and removing loopholes in the sale of guns.”
The Rittenhouse trial has erupted into a full-blown culture war on social media, with daily updates of the case being discussed at length over Reddit, Facebook
as Rittenhouse took the stand this week and testified that, “I didn’t do anything wrong. I defended myself.”
The fireworks have included Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder, who has generated headlines for how he handled the case. This week alone, he yelled at one of the prosecutors for attempting to question Rittenhouse about evidence the judge had ruled inadmissible. Then, his cell phone rang and interrupted the proceedings on Wednesday — and the ringtone was Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.,” which has been a staple at former President Donald Trump’s campaign rallies. This drew accusations of bias in favor of the defense.
And on Thursday, the judge made a joke about “Asian food” when asked about a lunch break: “I hope the Asian food isn’t coming … isn’t on one of those boats along Long Beach Harbor,” he said. While Shroeder appeared to be referencing supply chain issues that have seen cargo ships waiting off the coast of California, critics were offended by the comment.
One Stanford law professor called the judge “biased” and said the joke was “a thinly-veiled anti-Asian comment” in a tweet.