Closing arguments will be made today in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse in a court case that has quite literally riveted the nation. To some, the 18-year-old is a hero who fought the good fight against an angry mob in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and in the process became a poster child for the right to self-defense. Others view Rittenhouse as a killer who took the lives of two men and injured another. No matter one’s point of view, the trial has captured and held the attention of millions on cable television, turning the proceedings into a ratings goldmine.
Liberty Nation’s Legal Affairs Editor Scott Cosenza has provided our readers with gavel-to-gavel coverage, so we asked him how and why the Rittenhouse trial became so popular. “It was bold print above the fold from the outset,” replied Cosenza. Then he averred:
“President Trump and then former Vice President Biden both commented on what happened that night in Kenosha. Trump posited that Rittenhouse likely would have been killed if he hadn’t been armed while Biden contended the young man was a racist. With a start like that, it’s no wonder it is a big trial. Then you add to it a courtroom drama besting any scripted piece – all aired live, and it’s no surprise that the trial is a ratings bonanza.”
On Tuesday, Nov. 9, Mediate’s headline blared, “Fox News Scores FIVE TIMES as Many Viewers as CNN at 5 pm.” Then on Wednesday, Nov. 10, Tucker Carlson picked up the ball at the one-yard line and drove it into the end zone with huge ratings for his Kyle Rittenhouse coverage. And what do you think Fox was airing all day both days? Why, it was none other than the courtroom proceedings starring Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder.
Schroeder has proven to be a no-nonsense, don’t-even-think-about-messing-with-me kind of guy. TV viewers could not get enough of him. At one point, the Wisconsin judge bellowed, “Don’t get brazen with me,” as he dressed down Asst. District Attorney Thomas Binger. It was as if one was watching Judge Judy on steroids; only Schroeder is an honest-to-goodness judge reacting to events in his courtroom in real-time. This emotion proved too juicy for the TV audience to turn away, and Americans became glued to the courtroom drama.
The fury Judge Schroeder unleashed on the prosecutor was genuinely spellbinding and only served to ratchet up the ratings. Best of all, the unaffected drama took place once the jury was excused, but the television cameras kept quietly whirring in the background to record the entire courtroom dust-up. Now millions of people could see behind the curtain and were privy to the machinations of the American system of jurisprudence.
As if this weren’t enough, the accused then took the stand in a rare moment to give his account of what happened that fateful day in 2020. The viewing audience watched with rapt attention as the young man broke into uncontrollable sobs. The judge handed him a water bottle then ordered a break in the action so Mr. Rittenhouse could collect himself.
It was all too good not to watch, and for once, television provided a public service by airing the good, the bad, and the ugly so Americans could decide for themselves what they thought without the pundits or the spin. It was cable TV’s finest moment in quite some time, and those media outlets who chose to air it were rewarded handsomely.
Even though the Kyle Rittenhouse televised trial proved to be damn good TV, a lot is at stake when the jury begins its deliberation either later today or tomorrow. On Saturday, Nov. 13, the Wisconsin National Guard was on the move, ready to ensure “public safety in relation to the Kyle Rittenhouse trial and verdict,” according to a local Milwaukee TV station. The Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department said it is “monitoring the case closely” and stands at the ready.
What will happen to Kyle? What will happen in Kenosha? And what will this case ultimately mean for the nation regarding a right to self-defense? All these questions and more still hang in the air. But one thing is for sure; it’s clear Americans still love a good old courtroom drama because the ratings tell us so.
~ Read more from Leesa K. Donner.