Watters Rittenhouse riots

Research/Study Research/Study

Fox News spent a week fear-mongering about riots following Rittenhouse verdict. Protests were mostly peaceful.

During Fox News coverage of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial -- in which he was tried for fatally shooting two people and wounding a third during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last summer -- the network’s hosts and personalities fearmongered about violent riots that would break out if Rittenhouse was acquitted. 

Despite the network’s dire warnings of cities burning and anarchist protesters devastating the Wisconsin town after Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges last Friday, The Washington Post reported there was “relative calm” in Kenosha. While other “sporadic demonstrations” occurred throughout the country, there “were no signs of major clashes or unrest” in Kenosha. 

Media Matters identified at least 30 examples of Fox News hosts, guests, and personalities sensationalizing the threat of riots and violence:

  • Fox contributor-at-large Geraldo Rivera stated there would be an “incentive” for “these activists, these militants to take to the streets again” if Rittenhouse was acquitted. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 11/12/21]

  • Fox reporter Lawrence Jones warned that “people should be prepared for Kenosha” because public officials and media outlets “have amped the crowd up and I think they’re going to try to set the city on fire.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 11/12/21]

  • Frequent guest Alan Dershowitz argued that Rittenhouse’s trial was compromised “by implicit threats that if there is an acquittal, there will be consequences” [Fox News, Hannity, 11/12/21]

  • Hannity guest Leo Terrell said that the “biggest fear” from the Rittenhouse trial will be potential rioting and if “the city [will] pay for it.” [Fox News, Hannity, 11/12/21]

  • Host Brian Kilmeade stated that the jury was “worried about being somehow responsible if cities burn because of what they ruled” in the Rittenhouse trial. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 11/15/21]

  • Host Greg Gutfeld claimed that other media outlets “are telegraphing as always that somehow it is acceptable to riot or wage some kind of violence in the streets because there is no justice.” [Fox News, The Five, 11/15/21]

  • Host Jesse Watters complained that media outlets are “priming” Kenosha for “riots.”  [Fox News, Fox News Primetime, 11/15/21]

  • Terrell also claimed that Democrats “want chaos” and “something to happen, bad” after the Rittenhouse verdict. [Fox News, Hannity, 11/15/21]

  • Host Todd Piro lamented, “How sad is it that in America in 2021, you need to worry about losing everything that you’ve worked so hard for simply because the judicial process is going to play out the way it is supposed to play out and some people just may not like the result.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends First, 11/16/21]

  • Fox’s Rachel Campos-Duffy suggested that Kenosha is on “pins and needles bracing itself for what’s going to happen with this trial” because in summer of 2020, the town looked like “Beirut.” Her husband and fellow guest Sean Duffy emphasized that “we can't have the mob, the rioters control what happens in this country.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 11/16/21]

  • Gutfeld said that “now society dictates how people decide in court” because if the correct verdict is reached, “my city won’t burn.” [Fox News, The Five, 11/16/21]

  • Watters lamented that the left is “encouraging more unrest” by “corkscrew[ing] race into” the Rittenhouse trial so protestors “have a legitimate right to riot” and “anybody who gets in the way of those racial riots is thereby a white supremacist and who should be handled with mob justice.” [Fox News, Fox News Primetime, 11/16/21]

  • Host Tucker Carlson warned that jurors might “think twice” before acquitting Rittenhouse because “they burnt Los Angeles to the ground” after the Rodney King trial. He continued, “The mob threatens violence, the rest of us tremble and pretty soon, the mob controls our justice system.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 11/16/21

  • Ingraham criticized “the left’s new support for violence and rioting to get their way.” Ingraham later interviewed a Kenosha business owner asking if she was worried about continuing business amid people “shooting at each other” and “burning down buildings and small businesses.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 11/16/21]

  • Kilmeade said that jurors “don’t know if their decision is going to be part and parcel to the burning down of the city.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 11/17/21]

  • Co-anchor Dana Perino noted that residents in Kenosha are forced to put up a “kids live here sign ... hoping that if there is any violence that that house would hopefully be spared any sort of violence.” She also suggested that “the tension is higher [in Kenosha] than we've seen in a long time.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 11/17/21]

  • Co-host Kayleigh McEnany referred to protests outside the courthouse of Rittenhouse trial as a “tinderbox,” suggesting that some of the protesters have committed to “if Kenosha don't get it, shut it down." [Fox News, Outnumbered, 11/17/21]

  • Gutfeld said that the “justice system is now being held hostage by threats of mayhem because the media will allow the activist to riot for that reason.” [Fox News, The Five, 11/17/21]

  • Carlson’s guest Jason Whitlock said, “There is so much fear in Kenosha that we are going to have the rioting and looting and the violence and the arson that we just saw a year ago that is going to repeat itself.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 11/17/21]

  • Fox contributor Tammy Bruce claimed the media were engaged in “incitement” because “they want there to be more riots because they are thinking about their own ratings.” [Fox News, Hannity, 11/17/21]

  • Dershowitz said that media outlets are actually “the vigilantes and they will be responsible for violence and riots if there were to be an acquittal.” [Fox News, Hannity, 11/17/21]

  • Fox host Sean Hannity said of protesters gathered around the courthouse: “Many of them pledging to riot and commit acts of violence if Rittenhouse is found not -- is not found guilty. Now, after what we witnessed in 2020, we have no reason to believe that they want to back up that threat.” He later claimed, “Any violence, any rioting that follows, well you can thank the media mob. You can even thank Joe Biden.” [Fox News, Hannity, 11/17/21]

  • Fox host Neil Cavuto asked his guest: “Are [the jury members] cognizant of the fact that the pressure they're under and that a rushed decision or a decision that is not deemed to some people's liking and it could cause riots and the rest, how much of that enters into this whole deliberation?” [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 11/18/21]

  • Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett on protesters outside of courthouse: “I worry deeply about all the protesters chanting outside on the courthouse steps ... “no justice, no peace.” The ‘no peace’ part is meant to say if you don't convict, we are going to burn and pillage your city the same way we did 14 months ago. That, too, is jury intimidation.” [Fox News, Hannity, 11/18/21]

  • Dershowitz also said of the protesters outside the courthouse: “It sends a terrible message to the jury that you better convict, you better do what these folks outside want you to do or they there will be unrest.” [Fox News, Hannity, 11/18/21]

  • Fox guest Andrew McCarthy suggested that some jurors might be concerned that “if there is an acquittal, ... it will go back to the very type of violence that caused this whole thing to happen in the first place.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 11/19/21]

  • Terrell suggested that potential for violence constitutes jury intimidation: “They have the burden of the city, not only about this case, but the burden of whether or not this city, Kenosha, is going to be in trouble depending on their verdict.” [Fox News, The Faulkner Focus, 11/19/21]

  • After the jury verdict was announced, Terrell preemptively blamed “agitators” and “Black Lives Matter” for unrest following the Rittenhouse verdict: “I think if you find disturbance on the streets, it is those what I call agitators who want to play the race card.” [Fox News, America Reports, 11/19/21]

  • Fox correspondent Garrett Tenney warned “things start to take a turn for the worst” after “the sun goes down” [Fox News, America Reports, 11/19/21]

  • Carlson cited “the internet” for threats of violence following the Rittenhouse verdict and chants from protesters in Brooklyn, New York: “According to video on social media, they’ve been chanting things like ‘every city and every town, burn the precinct to the ground.’ It's also unclear if there will be riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 11/19/21]