According to internal documents obtained by NBC News, Department of Homeland Security officials were directed to make public comments sympathetic to Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager accused of fatally shooting two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
In preparing Homeland Security officials for questions about Rittenhouse from the media, the document suggests that they note that he "took his rifle to the scene of the rioting to help defend small business owners."
Another set of talking points distributed to Homeland Security officials said the media were incorrectly labeling the group Patriot Prayer as racists after clashes erupted between the group and protesters in Portland, Oregon.
NBC News reported that it was unclear whether the directive came from the White House or the DHS press office.
The Rittenhouse talking points also say, "Kyle was seen being chased and attacked by rioters before allegedly shooting three of them, killing two."
"Subsequent video has emerged reportedly showing that there were 'multiple gunmen' involved, which would lend more credence to the self-defense claims."
Peter Boogaard, a DHS spokesperson under President Barack Obama, told NBC News, "It is as unprecedented as it is wrong.”
"What strikes me about the talking points is that they didn't call for calm among the public,” said Elizabeth Neumann, who served as DHS's assistant secretary for threat prevention and security policy in the Trump administration. “Even in the early hours after the incident, it was known private militias had self-deployed. …They seemed more interested in Rittenhouse's reputation than calling for calm and actual law and order.”
The new outlet also noted that "Despite the talking points, Homeland Security officials have not gone as far to support Rittenhouse."