Judge Bruce Schroeder, who is presiding over the Kyle Rittenhouse trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin, announced on Thursday that he has banned MSNBC from the courtroom for the remainder of the trail. Why? He isn’t sure.
In explaining his decision, Schroder said that someone names James G. Morrison who identified himself as an MSNBC employee working under a producer named Irene Byon was pulled over and ticketed last night for running a red light while trying to following the jury bus. Schroeder said that the matter is being investigated. In the meantime, he’s going to go ahead and ban the network from the courtroom despite not knowing what actually happened. “I have instructed that no one from MSNBC will be permitted in this building for the duration of this trial,” he said. “This is a very serious matter. And I don’t know what the ultimate truth of it is.”
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Fox News was thrilled. “I think it speaks to this bigger issue of chilling free speech, and I don’t mean on behalf of MSNBC,” anchor Harris Faulker said after Schroeder’s announcement. “They wanted to change the narrative. They wanted to get pictures of people and they know that’s wrong … When you take pictures of jurors, you endanger them.”
Fox News routinely complains about what they allege is the suppression of speech in America, most notably as it pertains to private social media companies regulating hate speech on their platforms. The First Amendment guarantees the freedom of the press, too, so it’d stand to reason that the network might object to a media outlet being jettisoned from a courtroom for dubious reasons — but alas!
Faulker, however, doesn’t actually know whether an MSNBC employee was trying to take pictures of the jury. The Kenosha Police said in a statement that a person “who is alleging to be affiliated with a national media outlet was briefly taken into custody and issued several traffic-related citations,” and that they “suspected” this person was trying to take pictures of the jury. They also noted that there was “no breach in security regarding the jury.”
NBC News later confirmed to CNN’s Brian Stelter that “a freelancer received a traffic citation” and that “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.”
It’s unclear whether the freelancer’s name is James G. Morrison, or with whom at NBC he may have been working. MSNBC did not immediately respond to questions from Rolling Stone, but an Irene Byon does appear to work for the network. Byon lists herself as a booking producer, though, which do not typically assign editorial coverage.
Schroeder’s decision to ban a major network from the courtroom despite not knowing the “ultimate truth” does not come out of nowhere. The judge on Wednesday complained about the media’s coverage of the trial. “When I talked about problems with the media when the trial started … We are there in part because of grossly irresponsible handling of what comes out of this trial,” he said. “I’ll tell you this: I’m going to think long and hard about live television at a trial again … I’ve always been a firm believer in it because I think the people should be able to see what’s going on, but what I see being done is really quite frightening. Frightening, that’s the right word for it.”
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