President Biden on Friday said he stands by the jury’s acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse on all charges in connection with the fatal shooting of two people during last year’s racial justice riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
“I stand by what the jury has concluded,” Mr. Biden told reporters at the White House. “The jury system works and we have to abide by it.”
Mr. Biden said he didn’t watch the trial.
In a statement issued later Friday, Mr. Biden said he counted himself among the Americans who are “angry and concerned” about the verdict, but said “we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken.”
He also urged protesters to be calm, saying violence and destruction will not be tolerated.
Speaking with reporters, Mr. Biden declined to directly answer questions about whether he stands by his labeling of Mr. Rittenhouse, 18, as a white supremacist.
During last year’s presidential election, Mr. Biden on Twitter criticized former President Trump for refusing to condemn anti-Black Lives Matters protestors as “white supremacists.” The tweet included a video that showed an image of Mr. Rittenhouse’s face.
“There’s no other way to put it: the President of the United States refused to disavow white supremacists on the debate stage last night,” Mr. Biden wrote in September 2020.
Republicans, including Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, have demanded Mr. Biden apologize for suggesting Mr. Rittenhouse was a white supremacist.
“Joe Biden needs to publicly apologize to Kyle Rittenhouse,” Mr. Cotton wrote on Twitter.
Earlier this week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked why Mr. Biden chose to label the then-17-year-old Mr. Rittenhouse as a white supremacist. She also declined to address the issue.
“What I’m not going to speak to right now is an ongoing trial nor the president’s past comments. What I can reiterate for you is the president’s view that we shouldn’t have, broadly speaking, vigilantes patrolling our communities with assault weapons,” she said.
Mr. Rittenhouse’s mother said earlier this month that Mr. Biden “defamed” her son, telling Fox News that he is not a white supremacist or a racist.
“I was in shock. I was angry. President Biden doesn’t know my son, whatsoever,” Wendy Rittenhouse said to Fox News’s Sean Hannity. “He did that for the votes. I was so angry for a while at him and what he did to my son.”
Mr. Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all three charges related to his shooting of three men while fleeing a group of attackers. He fatally shot two of the men and injured a third.
The shooting happened during the August 2020 riots that took place in Kenosha during riots in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who was left partially paralyzed after being shot by a White police officer during a domestic disturbance call.