Could Kyle Rittenhouse, Newly Acquitted Hero of the Right, Land a TV or Politics Gig?

Now that Kyle Rittenhouse can walk free after his acquittal of felony charges related to the shooting deaths of two men and the injury of one other, his future is wide open. This fact has led to some speculation on what he may do in the upcoming years.

Several days before the verdict was rendered, The View guest co-host Ana Navarro said that if the jury found Rittenhouse acted in self-defense, he could eventually "end up in Congress." Co-host Sonny Hostin quickly agreed.

Could he have a future in politics? Given the historical precedent for other young people in high-profile trials, some other experts and commentators have also said they don't expect the 18-year-old to recede into a low-profile, private existence.

PREP: Potential Sentencing for Kyle Rittenhouse
Kyle Rittenhouse could parlay his name recognition into several different careers. In this photo, Rittenhouse is seen during his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse on November 9 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Mark Hertzberg/Pool/Getty Images

Dr. Karen Dill-Shackleford, a faculty member in the Media Psychology Doctoral Program at Fielding Graduate University and editor of the journal Psychology of Popular Media, spoke to Newsweek about Rittenhouse perhaps taking on a folk hero appeal to some people. She indicated this image could help Rittenhouse land high-profile, public work.

"We watch politicians do what they're doing, and it feels very out of control," Dill-Shackleford said, noting some people may feel "angry for one reason or another" or "full of anxiety" about authorities who are supposed to be in charge of protecting us—be it political leaders, police, etc.—that aren't doing their jobs. Thus, Kyle Rittenhouse stands as a symbol of someone who took power back himself.

"The public is interested in seeing people who are like them," Dill-Shackleford added. "He is a young man, and he looks sort of like the boy next door and very clean-cut."

Dr. Rita Kirk, a noted researcher and professor of communication studies at Southern Methodist University in Texas, said "there's a whole realm of possibilities" open to Rittenhouse.

"I'm sure people will come to him with a book deal," Kirk said.

There is certainly precedent for people landing book deals after highly-publicized trials. Amanda Knox, for one, wrote a best-selling memoir and participated in a popular Netflix documentary about her trial after she was exonerated for a 2007 murder conviction. Her case was certainly different than Rittenhouse's, and she did spend nearly four years in an Italian prison, but she was only around three years older than the Wisconsin teen when she was initially charged.

Perhaps Rittenhouse shares more in common with George Zimmerman, at least in regard to the circumstances of their trials. Though he was a dozen years older than Rittenhouse, Zimmerman fatally shot an unarmed Black teenager, Trayvon Martin, in 2012. He claimed to have acted in self-defense while serving as the neighborhood watch coordinator in his gated community and was acquitted.

Following his acquittal, Zimmerman began selling paintings he had made. One artwork sold for more than $100,000 on eBay, though it was later reported that the image—an American flag—was copied from a stock photograph. He also later partnered with a gun store owner in selling prints of the Confederate flag. Rittenhouse has given no indication of artistic interests, but many people may have once thought the same of Zimmerman.

Kirk noted that she was speaking in a hypothetical sense and had no idea about Rittenhouse's interests or abilities when discussing his possible future career options. With that said, she felt his "most lucrative" path may be on the public speaking market. She also felt he might be offered work in product endorsements or something related to gun rights advocacy.

The suggestion that Rittenhouse could be recruited as a spokesperson for a conservative organization was mentioned by social media users throughout the trial. Some people even floated the possibility that Fox News could hire him as an on-air commentator or show host.

Kirk doesn't foresee him appearing on Fox News, aside from perhaps as an interview subject. However, she does think a newer network like Newsmax or OANN could conceivably add him to their payroll as an on-air personality. She said these networks might be "looking for voices for young people" and might view his newfound notoriety/popularity as an asset.

Dill-Shackleford said she doesn't rule out a job in cable news for Rittenhouse, even on Fox News. She said, "Could that happen? Yeah, of course, people have come from all kinds of different backgrounds and ended up in the media."

"It seems obvious the NRA would say, 'Okay, you're a poster child for a boy growing up in America who just wants to protect himself," Dill-Shackleford said, also foreseeing a spokesperson path for Rittenhouse.

But what about Rittenhouse running for the Senate or the House of Representatives? At one time, former President Donald Trump was seen as a long-shot candidate, and few people would have predicted former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura and bodybuilder-turned-actor Arnold Schwarzenegger could have become governors. Kirk also noted that former actor Ronald Reagan was once scoffed at before he became governor of California and later one of the country's most popular presidents.

Yet, none of those well-known figures fatally shot anyone. Would there be a chance for Rittenhouse? Evidence suggests there might be at least interest from some individuals in gauging public interest. For instance, Public Policy Polling included Zimmerman's name as a potential presidential candidate during an Alaska poll testing in 2013 about 2016's election. (Only 2 percent of poll respondents said they would support Zimmerman.)

"Could he run for Congress? Well, he's got a long way to go before hearing Congress," Kirk said.

Kirk also posed another scenario. She spoke of George Wallace, the former Alabama governor who was once a staunch defender of segregation before drastically changing his views.

"You know, there is a place for forgiveness in our society, too," Kirk said. "We don't see it often, but I think that we should clearly articulate that possibility, too. He [Rittenhouse] has another lifeline out there."