Judge Bruce Schroeder has banned MSNBC from the Kenosha County Courthouse following an incident where an employee allegedly followed the bus with the jurors. It is difficult to express how moronic such a decision would be for a network. (For the record, I once worked for NBC/MSNBC as a legal analyst. I have also worked for CBS, BBC, and currently Fox). Update: NBC issued a statement below.
Judge Schroeder stated in court:
“Last evening a person who identified himself as James J. Morrison and who claimed that he was a producer with NBC News… and under the supervision of someone… in New York for MSNBC. The police when they stopped him because he was following in the distance of about a block and went through a red light, pulled him over and inquired of him what was going on and he gave that information. He stated he had been instructed by [a supervisor] in New York to follow the jury bus.”
He then added
“I have instructed that no one from MSNBC news will be permitted in this building for the duration of this trial. This is a very serious matter and I don’t know what the ultimate truth of it is, but absolutely it would go without much thinking that someone who is following the jury bus – that is an extremely serious matter and will be referred to the proper authorities for further action.”
The seriousness of this incident cannot be overstated, if true. It is not simply because the police thought MSNBC may have been trying to take their pictures. If the jurors believed that they were being followed, let alone photographed, it could add to their unease about voting in the case.
Cortez Rice, who is a BLM activist in Minnesota, was previously shown in a videotape saying that the jurors were being videotaped:
Being followed can add an intimidating element for a jury in a city that was previously subject to extensive violence and rioting.
The optics are particularly bad for MSNBC given the network’s criticism of the trial. MSNBC host Tiffany Cross advocated for Schroeder’s removal and called on columnist Elie Mystal to discuss the matter. Mystal, who stated earlier this month that white, non-college-educated voters supported Republicans in the 2021 races in part because they care about “using their guns on Black people and getting away with it,” not surprisingly, has written that this trial is a sham.
MSNBC’s host Joy Reid also attacked the trial and suggested that Rittenhouse’s emotional breakdown on the stand was fraudulent. Her guest, MSNBC legal analyst and Georgetown law professor Paul Butler, concurred and called it “the greatest performance of (his) life.” Butler called the trial “white supremacy on steroids.”
Reid added Wednesday, “If you want to know why critical race theory exists, the actual law school theory that emphasizes that supposedly colorblind laws in America often still have racially discriminatory outcomes, then look no further than the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse.”
Others at the networks have called the trial a travesty and rigged process.
MSNBC has not responded to the allegation.
Update: NBC released a statement:
“Last night, a freelancer received a traffic citation. While the traffic violation took place near the jury van, the freelancer never contacted or intended to contact the jurors during deliberations, and never photographed or intended to photograph them. We regret the incident and will fully cooperate with the authorities on any investigation.”
NBC’s statement is confusing in one respect in starting with “while the traffic violation took place near the jury van.” That suggests that it was a coincidence that the traffic accident occurred near the jury van. The question is whether the freelancer was instructed by NBC to follow the jury bus. That should be easy to deny if it is untrue.
Finally, the fact that he is a freelancer is immaterial. News organizations commonly use freelancers for a host of different positions. When they are working for a network, they are agents of that network. Again, NBC is ambiguous. It goes out of its way to note that this person is a freelancer but not whether he was working freelance for NBC at the time.