Protests erupted on the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin, when a white police officer shot and partially paralyzed a Black man, Jacob Blake, on Aug. 23, 2020. Ex-police cadet Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, crossed state lines from Antioch, Illinois and traveled to Kenosha with an AR-style semi-automatic weapon and a medic bag. His goal? To protect property after rioters had set fires and ransacked businesses.
Rittenhouse is on trial for killing two men and wounding a third. He has claimed self-defense, saying, “I didn’t do anything wrong, and I defended myself.”
During his testimony, Rittenhouse broke down in tears, a gesture that struck many as fake including NBA superstar LeBron James.
James tweeted, “What tears???? I didn’t see one. Man knock it off! That boy ate some lemon heads before walking into court.”
Now MAGA venture capitalist-turned-politician J.D. Vance is calling James “vile” while defending Rittenhouse.
Vance is best known for his New York Times best-selling memoir, “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.” He announced his candidacy for the 2022 Senate election in Ohio to succeed retiring Sen. Rob Portman. In 2019, Vance co-founded Narya Capital with financial backing from Silicon Valley billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel (co-founder of Paypal), Eric Schmidt (former chairman of Goole and Alphabet), and Marc Andreessen (co-founder of Netscape and VC firm Andreessen Horowitz). Vance raised $93 million for Narya Capital in 2020.
Once an outspoken critic of former President Donald Trump, Vance has now adopted a MAGA stance for his current campaign including using tactics such as name-calling and distraction.
Vance called out James in a tweet for criticizing Rittenhouse. “Here’s a wealthy grown man making fun of a kid, as that kid recounted being attacked. Lebron is one of the most vile public figures in our country. Total coward.”
Vance succeeded in his objective to draw attention to himself. Many on Twitter clapped back at him and Rittenhouse.
“He’s literally neurodivergent and a minor it’s not his fault that he crossed state lines to kill people and meet up with his Nazi besties, ” lee @ambivirgo tweeted about Rittenhouse.
Politicians should be uniting people, not dividing them — much less defending Rittenhouse, critics said.
“Vance could have been empathizing with Black and brown kids in underserved neighborhoods who, multiple studies show, respond to the psychological strain of over-policing by acting out. He could have been emphasizing the humanity of Black parents disproportionately criminalized by a racist justice system that takes them away from their children and communities…” stated an opinion piece in The Daily Beast. “But Vance wasn’t talking about any of those people or things. He was empathizing with Kyle Rittenhouse, the white 18-year-old currently on trial for intentional homicide after fatally gunning down Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber last summer and on charges of criminal violence related to his shooting that same night of a third person, Gaige Grosskreutz.”
Vance has been criticized in the past for other statements. In an interview with Fox News Digital, the Ohio Senate candidate claimed that Ohio parents are worried about critical race theory being taught in schools.
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“People are really worried about their kids not getting an education at school but basically being indoctrinated at their country at school,” Vance told Fox News on Nov. 2. “So I think critical race theory is a very big issue nationwide, certainly in the state of Ohio. It’s something that parents talk to me about constantly.”
Trump Republicans are in a conflict with the former Trump critic. Two super PACs —Club for Growth Action and USA Freedom Fund— have launched a nearly $1 million coordinated ad buy attacking Vance’s campaign in Ohio, Politico reported.
“I’m a Never Trump guy,” Vance said in an interview with Charlie Rose in 2016, a clip used in both the new ads. “I never liked him.”