Even after a vigilante gunman shot and killed two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, two popular local conservative media personalities — radio host Vicki McKenna and former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke — have continued to encourage armed individuals to take the law into their own hands, and they even laid the groundwork for further vigilante actions.
On August 25, a 17-year-old Trump supporter allegedly shot three people, killing two, at a protest in Kenosha following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Many right-wing media personalities have leapt to the defense of the shooter and sought to justify his actions.
Vicki McKenna, a local conservative talk radio host in Wisconsin, has been among the shooter’s most vocal supporters. In remarks first reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, McKenna claimed on August 26 that the shooter was clearly acting in self defense and asked her audience, “Have you cleaned your guns lately? Do you have enough ammo? … Are you going to be ready to defend your property, your people, against the imminent violence being unleashed by people whose endgame is total destruction of our way of life?”
After McKenna’s remarks were publicized, one advertiser dropped support for the Madison-based station airing her show, and it appears a recording of the August 26 show has since been removed from the host’s iHeartRadio site. The next day, McKenna responded to the Journal Sentinel article, arguing, “There’s nothing controversial about what I said, and there’s nothing controversial about the way I said it.” Reading from what she claimed was an email exchange with the Journal Sentinel reporter, McKenna continued to defend the shooter’s actions, arguing, “I hope I would have been able to do the same thing because honestly, I don’t know if I would have been as composed.”
McKenna has also promoted a fundraiser for the suspected shooter’s legal defense and a statement from his attorneys on Twitter. During her show on August 28, McKenna interviewed an unnamed “eyewitness” to the shooting who claimed he was a part of a “patriot group” and offered a sympathetic portrayal of the shooter.
David Clarke, a former Milwaukee County sheriff and ex-Fox News guest, frequently appears on McKenna’s program. During an appearance on her show last week, Clarke called for a more forceful police response to end the Jacob Blake protests and said, “I am tired of seeing these subhumans be allowed to destroy property.”
Clarke also served as a guest host for The Mark Belling Show the day after the Kenosha shootings. While guest hosting on August 26, Clarke asked, “You know what happens with inaction? People take the law into their own hands. Government is leaving them no choice. No choice. I don’t advocate for some of the stuff that’s starting to happen, but I am certainly done -- I am through with condemning it. I’m done with that.”
Clarke continued, “I am just telling people, ‘Hey, you’re on your own.’ Think about it, have a plan. Act reasonably. You have to act reasonably. Then you are going to have to articulate what you did afterwards.”
Later in the show, Clarke said, “When we leave this up to the individual, it’s not going to end real pretty. But I don’t blame them. Have a plan, think it through, be able to articulate it, and be reasonable. It's all the law requires.” Clarke continued, “You have the right to defend yourself, you don’t need permission from the police or a sheriff.”
Clarke had less to say about the Kenosha shooter specifically, although he complained about a local sheriff pointing to the shootings as evidence that individual citizens should not be “deputized” to protect Kenosha. Clarke argued, “Well they’re certainly not doing it, so who’s going to do it, sheriff?” He added, “By the way, you don’t have to deputize anybody. People automatically have the right to defend themselves and their property. They don’t need you to deputize them.”
Citing a Washington Post story about the shooting, Clarke added: “People have had it. And when government is not going to fulfill their responsibilities to protect life and property, to preserve law and order and uphold the rule of law, the people will do it themselves.”
However, Clarke also rejected media reports labelling the group the shooter may have been affiliated with as “vigilantes.” Instead, Clarke claimed, “These are citizens who are tired of the police standing around." Returning from an ad break, Clarke continued, claiming that police are “not helping them protect their property or their lives. They are not a vigilante group.”