PolitiFact has been slammed for a “fact-check” that claimed to readers that Kyle Rittenhouse’s possession of a firearm was illegal — after the judge presiding over his murder trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin, threw out the weapons charge against him.
Rittenhouse, 18, was initially charged with possession of a dangerous weapon as a minor, but the judge tossed it after the charge — and the site’s claim — didn’t hold up in court.
Judge Bruce Schroeder agreed with Rittenhouse’s lawyers that the ban on minors with dangerous weapons only applies to those weapons that are short-barreled, unlike the one that the teen used to fatally shoot two men and injure a third.
In the aftermath of the shooting, PolitiFact had challenged a claim made by a Facebook user who wrote, “Carrying a rifle across state lines is perfectly legal.”
“Is that true? State laws suggest not,” a fact-checker wrote on the site
“The Wisconsin Department of Justice honors concealed carry permits issued in Illinois. But Rittenhouse did not have a permit to begin with, and he was not legally old enough to carry a firearm in Wisconsin,” the post continued.
With the spotlight back on the weapons charge Monday, critics blasted the fact-checking site.
“This fact check was always wrong, but now that the weapons charge has been dropped it’s officially PANTS ON FIRE,” RealClearInvestigations senior writer Mark Hemingway wrote on Twitter.
“Who fact checks the fact checkers?” Babylon Bee writer Frank J. Fleming added.
However, following the court decision, PolitiFact updated the post with an editor’s note that doubled down on its stance.
“Wisconsin law says that ‘any person under 18 years of age who possesses or goes armed with a dangerous weapon is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.’ In our fact-check, we cite the possibility of an exception for rifles and shotguns. The exception is aimed at letting children ages 16 and 17 hunt. But, as it is also clear, Rittenhouse wasn’t in Kenosha to hunt,” the editor’s note said.
The note pointed out that the “same legal debate played out a couple of times during the Rittenhouse trial.”
“Schroeder, according to the Associated Press, acknowledged the intent of the statute was murky but decided not to dismiss the charge. The issue came up again on Nov. 15 as lawyers were debating instructions to the jury,” the editor’s note continued.
The site concluded, “These subsequent events show the grey areas of local gun laws — hardly a case of something being ‘perfectly legal.’ Our fact-check remains unchanged.”