Facebook hate speech
Andrea Austria | Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

On Facebook, right-leaning pages dominate the conversation about Kyle Rittenhouse's acquittal

Right-leaning pages praising the verdict earned over three-quarters of the interactions for posts about Rittenhouse from politics and news pages

Right-leaning Facebook pages and groups dominated the conversation about Kyle Rittenhouse on the platform, with posts praising the verdict, supporting Rittenhouse, and pushing related narratives. These pages earned tens of millions of interactions in one day — numbers not seen since January 6 and the early days of the Biden administration.

On November 19, a jury acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse on all five charges he faced after fatally shooting two people and wounding a third in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August 2020. The acquittal was met with praise from right-wing media outlets and personalities, who had spent months defending Rittenhouse and even hailing him as a hero

On Facebook, right-leaning pages and group members praised the jury verdict, while also disparaging the victims, calling on Rittenhouse to sue mainstream media outlets and President Joe Biden, praising the jury for being brave and not being intimidated into giving a guilty verdict, and even calling for violence.

  • Right-leaning pages earned nearly 30 million interactions on their posts on November 19 -- numbers not seen since January 6 and the early days of the Biden administration

  • On the day of Rittenhouse’s acquittal, right-leaning pages earned 29.9 million interactions on all of their posts. This level of engagement was higher than what these pages have earned in any one day since February 13, when former President Donald Trump was acquitted by the Senate for his role in the deadly attack on the Capitol.

  • Interaction trends chart_1-1-21 to 11-22-21
  • In fact, there are only five days this year that right-leaning pages exceeded the engagement they got on November 19. They earned:

    • 32.7 million interactions on January 6, the day of the deadly insurrection at the Capitol.
    • 30.4 million on January 8, following the January 6 insurrection.
    • 33.7 million interactions on January 20, the day of President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
    • 33.8 million interactions on January 22, following Biden’s inauguration.
    • 33.8 million interactions on February 13, the day the Senate acquitted Trump for his role in the January 6 insurrection.
  • Following Rittenhouse’s acquittal, right-leaning pages earned 76% of all interactions on posts related to him from all politics and news pages

  • Media Matters analyzed posts related to Rittenhouse from news and politics pages that were posted between 1 p.m. EST November 19 (roughly the time the jury’s verdict was read) and 12 a.m. EST November 22. We found that right-leaning pages earned over 27.9 million interactions on 3,122 posts, while left-leaning pages earned roughly 3.2 million interactions on 742 posts, and ideologically nonaligned pages earned roughly 5.6 million interactions on 2,012 posts. 

    Notably, the interactions earned by right-leaning pages accounted for over 76% of all interactions earned on related posts from all politics and news pages, even though they accounted for only 53% of posts.

  • Engagement data for posts about Rittenhouse's acquittal from Facebook pages that post about U.S. political news
  • Right-leaning pages also accounted for a disproportionate amount of the top 100 posts, with 87 of the top 100 posts coming from right-leaning pages and earning roughly 12.7 million interactions. Right-leaning pages also accounted for nearly all of the top 50 posts, with only one of the posts coming from a left-leaning page.

    Additionally, all of the top 10 posts about Rittenhouse following the verdict were from right-leaning pages -- including pages for right-wing media outlets Fox News and Newsmax and right-wing media personalities The Hodgetwins, Dan Bongino, Ben Shapiro, and Kayleigh McEnany. These top 10 posts shared news of the verdict, with some directly praising the acquittal.

    The Hodgetwins

    The Hodgetwins_facebook post_20211119

    Dan Bongino

    Dan Bongino_facebook post_20211119_2

    Ben Shapiro

    Ben Shapiro_facebook post_20211119

    Fox News

    Fox News_facebook post_20211119

    Dan Bongino

    Dan Bongino_facebook post_20211119_3

    Ben Shapiro

    Ben Shapiro_facebook post_20211119_2

    Newsmax

    Newsmax_facebook post_20211119

    ForAmerica

    ForAmerica_facebook post_20211119

    Dan Bongino

    Dan Bongino_facebook post_20211119_4

    Kayleigh McEnany

    Kayleigh McEnany_facebook post_20211119

  • Right-leaning Facebook pages and groups called on Rittenhouse to sue the mainstream media and Democrats, claimed the verdict would cause riots, disparaged the victims, and called for violence

  • In addition to general praise of the verdict and support for Rittenhouse, right-leaning pages and groups pushed several other related narratives after the acquittal.

    Notably, right-wing outlets and personalities used Facebook to call on Rittenhouse to sue the mainstream media and Democrats. This narrative was also shared by members of right-wing Facebook groups.

    Posts include:

    Sean Hannity_facebook post_20211119

    Nick Freitas_facebook post_20211119

    image of facebook post

    Mike Huckabee_facebook post_20211119

    Matt Walsh_facebook post_20211119

    image of facebook post

    image of facebook post

    American Neanderthal & Deplorables_facebook post_20211119

    image of facebook post

  • Video file

    Citation From the November 19, 2021, live video from PragerU's Facebook page

  • Right-leaning Facebook pages -- and members of right-wing Facebook groups -- also posted claims that the verdict would cause riots. 

    Notable posts include:

    Terrence K Williams_facebook post_20211119

    The Western Journal_facebook post_20211119

    Unitewomen.org_facebook post_20211119

    Stand Up For The Truth Podcast_facebook post_20211119

  • Right-wing media personalities and members of Facebook groups also praised the jurors, including for their “bravery,” and claimed they weren’t “intimidated” into giving a guilty verdict.

  • Video file

    Citation From the November 19, 2021, video on Dan Bongino's Facebook page of Fox Nation's The Dan Bongino Show

  • Video file

    Citation From a November 19, 2021, video on Ben Shapiro's Facebook page of The Daily Wire's Rittenhouse Verdict Live Coverage

  • In Facebook groups, members also disparaged the victims, claiming they deserved what happened, and suggested additional violence, calling for Rittenhouse to “get back out there” and for others to “do the same thing.”

  • Methodology

  • Using CrowdTangle, Media Matters compiled a list of 1,773 Facebook pages that frequently posted about U.S. politics from January 1 to August 25, 2020.

    For an explanation of how we compiled pages and identified them as right-leaning, left-leaning, or ideologically nonaligned, see the methodology here

    The resulting list consisted of 771 right-leaning pages, 497 ideologically nonaligned pages, and 505 left-leaning pages.

    Every day, Media Matters also uses Facebook's CrowdTangle tool and this methodology to identify and share the 10 posts with the most interactions from top political and news-related Facebook pages.

    Using CrowdTangle, Media Matters compiled all posts for the pages on this list between January 1 and November 22, 2021. We reviewed data for these posts, including total interactions (reactions, comments, and shares), post type, and video views.

    We also compiled all posts for the pages on this list that were posted between 1 p.m. EST November 19, 2021, and 12 a.m. EST November 22, 2021, and were related to Rittenhouse’s acquittal.

    We defined posts as related to the acquittal if they had any of the following terms in the message or in the included link, article headline, or article description: “Rittenhouse,” “Jacob Blake,” “Kyle Rittenhouse,” “Rittenhouse trial,” “Kenosha, Wisconsin,” “Bruce Schroeder,” “Thomas Binger,” “Attorney Mark Richards,” “Joseph Rosenbaum,” “Anthony Huber,” “Gaige Grosskreutz,” “Richard McGinniss,” “Ben Antaramian,” “Jason Lackowski,” “Ryan Balch,” “Martin Howard,” “Corey Chirafisi,” “Kariann Swart,” “Joshua Ziminski,” “Dominick Black,” “Koerri Washington,” or “Dave Hancock.”