Then and Now: 4 GOP Members Who Have Openly Expressed Support for Kyle Rittenhouse

More than one year after the deadly Kenosha shootings, some GOP Members are still defending Kyle Rittenhouse — as the nation awaits a verdict for his trial.

Representative Matt Gaetz (R) of Florida is one of several GOP members who has openly expressed support for Kyle Rittenhouse. Credit: Getty Images
Representative Matt Gaetz (R) of Florida is one of several GOP members who has openly expressed support for Kyle Rittenhouse. Credit: Getty Images

Amid the Kyle Rittenhouse homicide trial happening in Kenosha, WI, a group of GOP leaders have indicated their staunch support for the 18-year-old, who is accused of killing two men and seriously wounding a third during a protest over the 2020 police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man.

The trial has been particularly divisive with regards to Rittenhouse’s claim of “self-defense,” with a number of individuals arguing that the actions of Rittenhouse are justified since he was in imminent danger. Many others refute this assertion, and instead, label Rittenhouse as the instigator of the massacre.

On Tuesday, Mark McCloskey (R), a candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri, was photographed outside the Kenosha County Courthouse in a show of support for Rittenhouse, and was also photographed standing next to men flashing the “OK” sign — a hand signal linked to white supremacy.

McCloskey and his wife gained national attention for brandishing guns at demonstrators outside his St. Louis home during the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, and were subsequently ordered to pay fines for misdemeanor charges.

The Senate candidate also compared himself to Rittenhouse on Tuesday, saying they were merely defending themselves from an “angry mob.” McCloskey’s Instagram profile picture was taken on the day of the incident, and shows him holding an assault rifle in front of his home. The image is encircled by the hashtag #TEAMMCCLOSKEY.


Other Republicans have signaled that Rittenhouse should be commended and even rewarded for his actions. In a Wednesday night appearance on Newsmax, Representative Matt Gaetz (R) of Florida said that he would be interested in reaching out to Rittenhouse who he thinks, “would probably make a pretty good congressional intern.”

“We may reach out to him and see if he’d be interested in helping the country in additional ways,” Gaetz added. He shared his sentiments on social media, tweeting, “Kyle Rittenhouse is not guilty and deserves a not guilty verdict. In fact, he’d make a great Congressional Intern.”


After the deadly shooting that occurred on the night of August 25, 2020, some members of the GOP had been quick to defend Rittenhouse.

Less than a week after Rittenhouse touted an AR-15 assault rifle in Kenosha and gunned down two men, former president Donald Trump declined to condemn the then 17-year-old’s actions, observing the “self-defense” argument and emphasizing that the incident was still under investigation Trump said, “He was trying to get away from them, I guess, it looks like. I guess he was in very big trouble. He probably would have been killed.”

In the aftermath of the shooting, Republican lawmaker Representative Anthony Sabatini of Florida tweeted, “KYLE RITTENHOUSE FOR CONGRESS” on Nov. 21, 2020, roughly two months after the shooting occurred. Sabatini faced criticism for the tweet, which was posted a day after Rittenhouse was granted bail after facing initial charges related to the event.


The split mentality over Rittenhouse and his image — patriotic martyr vs. premeditated gunman — is palpable as ever as his trial moves into its final days of proceedings.