On August 23, police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, seven times in the back at point-blank range as he tried to enter a car with his children. Blake’s shooting has sparked an uprising against police brutality toward Black Americans in Kenosha and nationwide.
This week, the Wisconsin Department of Justice revealed that Blake admitted during the investigation of his shooting that he had a knife in his car. The agency has revealed little else about the incident, but conservative media are running with the detail in an attempt to justify the police shooting of Blake. As reported by CNN:
State investigators did not indicate why police moved to arrest Blake, whether he brandished or threatened to use the knife, or why Sheskey shot so many times into Blake's back, and it does not mention his children in the vehicle or other family members standing just feet away.
Blake’s lawyer, civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, addressed the attempt to justify the shooting by focusing on the knife on CNN’s New Day. Crump said that his legal team has made it clear that “witnesses have said they saw him with no knife.” He said the Wisconsin DOJ had publicly announced this detail yet revealed little else "to try to assassinate [Blake’s] character and justify these things when it's convenient for them,” and he pointed out that regardless of whether there was a knife somewhere in the car, police “rushed to judgment when they shot him seven times in the back.”
Right-wing media have embraced this tactic, however, pointing to the presence of a knife as vindication of their initial assessment that the shooting by police was likely justified. Some are blatantly manipulating the report to insist that Blake was “armed” with the knife or claiming that he was threatening the police with it; others are arguing that merely possessing a knife in his car was enough justification for the shooting.
Here are some examples:
- Far-right commentator Candace Owens claimed that Blake was “armed with a knife” and “threaten[ed] to grab another weapon from his car.”
- Former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly falsely tweeted that the Wisconsin DOJ said Blake was “armed with a KNIFE when cops shot him.”
- The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh tweeted that the shooting was “100 percent justified” for reasons including that Blake “reached for a knife,” calling it “easily one of the least controversial police shootings we've ever seen on camera.” In a follow-up tweet, Walsh said that “he may have already been holding the knife, which obviously just add even more potential justification for the police.” Walsh later tweeted that Blake “pulled a knife.”
- Right-wing radio host Jesse Kelly tweeted that Blake was “a dude trying to knife the cops.”
- A Daily Wire headline said that the Wisconsin DOJ found that Blake had a “weapon” on the floorboard of the car, without stating what the weapon was. It is not described as a “knife” until the fourth paragraph.
- Conservative radio host Buck Sexton tweeted that “Blake was going for a weapon, which makes the shooting legally justified.”
- Conservative podcaster Aubrey Huff tweeted that it was confirmed Blake was “reaching for a knife in his car,” asking, “Do the police not have a right to self-defense?”