President Joe Biden, at the time the Democratic nominee, visited Blake and his family during a trip to the area last September just weeks after the incident left Blake paralyzed below the waist.
Biden’s visit came on the heels of then-President Donald Trump’s own tour of the city to survey the damage wrought during the protests that followed Blake’s shooting. Trump used the Kenosha visit to demonstrate his law-and-order image, traveling there despite objections from state and local officials in Wisconsin, who feared his presence would exacerbate tensions.
The former president also faced criticism for not meeting with Blake’s family, instead opting to spend time with members of law enforcement and local businesses.
Trump and other conservatives quickly came to defend Rittenhouse and his claims of self-defense, turning the teen into a totem of the ongoing culture war that has only compounded this year. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) even floated the idea of hiring Rittenhouse as a congressional intern.
“You know what, Kyle Rittenhouse would probably make a pretty good Congressional intern,” Gaetz said Wednesday in an interview on Newsmax. “We might reach out to him and see if he be interested in helping the country in additional ways.”
Friday’s verdict comes as Biden works to direct voters’ attention to his legislative agenda and as the president’s approval ratings sit at a low point in his first year in the White House. Now Biden faces the prospect of wading into a volatile situation involving race, guns, policing and criminal justice.
Though Biden had previously commented on both the Rittenhouse and Blake situations, the White House has said little while the trial was playing out for fear of influencing its outcome.
Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has ordered about 500 National Guard members to be placed on standby around the Kenosha ahead of the Rittenhouse verdict to assist local law enforcement if necessary.