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Viral photo of a child in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe is not Kyle Rittenhouse

A viral photo collage that includes a 2007 photo of a child in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe is being used as “evidence” that Kyle Rittenhouse — who shot three people, killing two of them, during protests and riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August 2020 — was raised as a white supremacist. But the child in the photo is not Rittenhouse. The photo and similar images taken the same day have gone viral out of context before. Let’s take a look at the facts.

A screenshot of a tweet that says, “Defense claiming Rittenhouse wasn’t a white supremacist … I beg to differ …” and includes a screenshot of a meme that reads, “17 yr old Kyle been wanting to murder you since he wore his first Klan outfit. He’s been supported by Wisconsin P.D. and KKKhristian Churches all his life. They raised him for this EVIL moment.” The meme contains three photos in a collage, including one of a child in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe, one of a child holding an assault rifle and a photo of Kyle Rittenhouse from August 2020. The News Literacy Project has added a label pointing to the Klan child photo that says, “This is not Kyle Rittenhouse.”
The child in the Ku Klux Klan hood and robe in this meme is not Kyle Rittenhouse.
It is a photo of an unnamed child in rural Arkansas that was taken by the photojournalist Anthony Karen in 2007.
Another photo of this same child circulated out of context in October 2017 with the false claim that it was Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was the White House press secretary at the time.

NewsLit takeaway

Photos that are more tightly focused on photo subjects are easier to take out of context than wider shots. This is one reason why close-up photos of flooding, groups of protesters, gas station signs and empty store shelves often go viral in false contexts. (Another reason is that they can provoke quick, strong emotional responses that ignite existing beliefs.) This close-up photo of a child wearing KKK garb is an example — and could have been taken almost anytime in the last 50 years. It also could easily be falsely identified as anyone who looks even remotely similar as an adult — a particularly potent tactic when the person involved is already polarizing.

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