Following the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse on charges related to a fatal shooting during protests last year in Kenosha, Wisconsin, some speculated the teenager would pursue defamation lawsuits against media outlets and public figures.
Rittenhouse’s attorney recently told USA TODAY no lawsuits have been filed, but that hasn’t stopped people from claiming otherwise on social media.
A recent Facebook post asserts that a federal magistrate approved a defamation lawsuit from Rittenhouse against Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, who mocked the 18-year-old on Twitter for crying in court during his murder trial.
“Kyle Rittenhouse is suing racist LeBron James for defamation,” reads a Facebook post shared on Nov. 30.
Similar versions of the claim were shared to Twitter and Facebook, where one Dec. 1 post generated more than 400 shares before it was deleted.
But the claim is inaccurate, according to Rittenhouse’s spokesperson. The rumor stems from a website that regularly publishes satirical articles that are reposted to social media as if they are genuine news reports.
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The Facebook users who shared the post did not return requests for comment.
The headline seen in the post comes from an article on Potatriots Unite, a parody and satire website that is a subsidiary of America’s Last Line of Defense, a network that publishes fictitious content.
“Everything on this website is fiction,” reads a message on the website’s “About Us” page. “It is not a lie and it is not fake news because it is not real.”
But some social media users who shared a screenshot of the article’s headline weren’t in on the joke.
It’s an example of “stolen satire,” in which something published and labeled as satire is captured via screenshot and reposted in a way that makes it appear to be legitimate news. As a result, viewers of the second-generation post are misled, as was the case here.
In response to the claim, Mark Richards, Rittenhouse’s lead attorney, told USA TODAY via email that “just cause it is on the internet doesn’t make it so.”
Similarly, Rittenhouse spokesperson David Hancock told The Associated Press that the teenager and his legal team are not having any discussions at the moment about filing defamation lawsuits.
Claims that Rittenhouse filed a $60 million lawsuit against “The View” co-hosts Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar have been previously debunked, as well as claims that he sued CNN for $400 million.
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Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that Rittenhouse filed a defamation lawsuit against James. Rittenhouse’s spokesperson said the family and Rittenhouse’s legal team have not filed any lawsuits. The claim originated on a website that publishes satirical stories but was shared to social media without any sort of disclaimer.
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