Anger Over Kyle Rittenhouse Trial Judge Grows After Week of Controversies

The actions of the judge presiding over Kyle Rittenhouse's trial have continued to garner attention and controversy, in an already hugely divisive case which has attracted national attention for days.

In the latest incident on Thursday, Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder was accused of racism after making a joke about Asian food when asked when the trial would break for lunch.

"Let's hope for one o'clock," Schroeder said. "I hope the Asian food isn't on one of those boats in Long Beach harbor," he added, apparently in reference to the logjam of boats in California ports.

The comments were heavily criticized online given they were made in a trial which is already racially charged.

Michele Dauber, a Stanford professor, accused the "biased judge" of making a "thinly-veiled anti-Asian comment," because "all Asian food comes from China like the boats haha what a bigot," she tweeted.

The biased judge in the Rittenhouse trial just made a thinly-veiled anti-Asian comment. When asked when lunch was coming he said "I hope the Asian food isn't on one of those boats in Long Beach harbor." Because all Asian food comes from China like the boats haha what a bigot. pic.twitter.com/4PUxulpVJO

— Michele Dauber (@mldauber) November 11, 2021

Civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson tweeted: "It's pretty clear that this man should not be a judge of anything."

MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan added: "So we're supposed to have faith in this judge and this trial? Day after day it gets worse..."

This is not the first time that the words or actions of the judge have come under scrutiny.

On Thursday, Schroeder asked the court to give a round of applause to honor members of the military on Veterans Day just as Dr. John Black, who had served in the U.S. Army, was due to give evidence for the defense.

pic.twitter.com/VJOe7UVkN7

— Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs (@NickAtNews) November 11, 2021

Steven Wright, a professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Law, told the Associated Press that highlighting Black's military background was a mistake as it risked making his testimony appear more credible in the eyes of the jury.

Michael J. Stern, a former state and federal prosecutor who is now an opinion columnist for USA Today, said he was "horrified" at Schroeder's "untethered bias and unprofessionalism."

Stern added: "At some point, it makes sense for a prosecutor to hit on a judge's behavior in closing. It's a risky move, but doing nothing to counteract the judge is also risky."

Others have also accused Schroeder of being racist or biased because of his choice of ringtone.

On Thursday, Schroeder's cell phone went off during proceedings, briefly playing out Lee Greenwood's 1984 song "God Bless The USA."

The track was used as Donald Trump walked on stage for his campaign rallies in 2016 and 2020.

However, the judge has also been praised by prominent right-wing figures. Charlie Kirk, founder of the conservative student group Turning Point USA, praised the judge as a "hero," while right-wing pundit Ann Coulter said the criticism against him is unwarranted.

"Today's Democratic Party: Applauding a veteran on Veterans Day is white supremacy," she tweeted.

"Rejecting any evidence from the prosecutor of a non-antifa white man is white supremacy. 'Proud to an American' is white supremacy."

Elie Mystal, justice correspondent for The Nation, accused Schroeder of having "pre-judged the trial" in favor of Rittenhouse and is now taking the 18-year-old's side because he recognizes "what white people are willing to do to defend white supremacy."

Mystal told Democracy Now!: "He has made a series of decisions, each one perhaps may be individually defensible but in totality lead to the impression of a biased, racist judge with his Trump rally cellphone that is trying to get Rittenhouse a walk."

Mystal also referenced a number of decisions made by Schroeder both before and during proceedings which he suggests are indications of bias.

These include, according to Mystal, not allowing the prosecution to refer to Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum—the two people Rittenhouse shot and killed in Kenosha—as "victims" but allowing the defense to refer to the pair as "rioters" or "looters" if they can produce the evidence.

The prosecution was also not permitted to discuss a video that, it says, shows Rittenhouse saying he wished he had a rifle so he could shoot two people exiting a pharmacy because he thought they were shoplifters, which was recorded weeks before the Kenosha protests.

Schroeder yelled at Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger for attempting to ask Rittenhouse about the video, despite him having already ruled the video inadmissible evidence.

The judge also condemned Binger for asking why the defendant remained silent about the case following his arrest, despite this being a protected right.

"That's basic law. It's been basic law in this country for 40 years, 50 years," Schroeder said. "I have no idea why you would do something like that. I don't know what you're up to. When you say you were acting in good faith, I don't believe you."

The judge also told the prosecution ahead of the trial that it could not make any attempt to link Rittenhouse to the far-right Proud Boys group.

Rittenhouse was seen drinking and being serenaded by members of the Proud Boys at a bar in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, soon after he pleaded not guilty to the charges against him in January, according to an affidavit filed by Binger.

Judge Bruce Schroeder
Judge Bruce Schroeder tells Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger that certain evidence is not admissible during Rittenhouse's trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse on November 10, 2021 in Kenosha, Wisconsin Sean Krajacic-Pool//Getty Images