NEW YORK - A FOX News executive said Saturday the network did not pay Kyle Rittenhouse’s family for any special access during Rittenhouse’s murder trial or after his acquittal, after it was announced that he would speak to Tucker Carlson for an interview to air on Monday.
The comment came after Rittenhouse’s trial attorney, Mark Richards, said that a FOX documentary crew was embedded with Rittenhouse’s team against his wishes. Richards told The Associated Press on Saturday that he didn’t think the filming was appropriate and that he had tossed the crew out of meetings several times.
"It was not approved by me, but I’m not always in control," he told the AP. "I think it detracted from what we were trying to do, and that was obviously to get Kyle found not guilty."
Richards, to the AP and in similar remarks to CNN on Friday night, said it was arranged by those who were raising money for Rittenhouse, though he did not say that FOX paid Rittenhouse.
Carlson, on his show Friday, showed portions of what his film crew had recorded, including Rittenhouse’s first public comments after being acquitted of murder charges in a trial that sparked a national debate on guns and self-defense.
Justin Wells, senior executive producer of "Tucker Carlson Tonight," said no payment was made for access, footage rights, legal fees or any other purpose to Rittenhouse or his family.
It’s considered unethical for a news organization to pay for an interview. Broadcasters have found workarounds for much-sought interview subjects, including paying for old photos, or flying an interview subject to different locations and putting them up in hotels.
David Hancock, a spokesman for the Rittenhouse family, said any potential payment by FOX "was never offered and it was never asked for and it was never discussed."
The intention of the documentary, which is to be shown next month on the FOX Nation streaming service, is to memorialize the experience that Rittenhouse had during the trial and to show people who he really is, he said.
In choosing FOX, Rittenhouse’s family is putting the story before an audience most likely to be supportive. Conservatives paid his $2 million bail after his arrest last year. A website devoted to defending Rittenhouse and raising money for him greets visitors with a quote attributed to James Monroe: "the right of self-defense never ceases."
Carlson was chosen to conduct the first post-trial interview with Rittenhouse because he "was honest. At the very beginning he saw what was happening and he pointed out that Kyle was defending himself," Hancock said.
The spokesman said Rittenhouse plans to do other interviews with other news organizations, although they haven’t been set yet.
In Carlson, the 18-year-old will sit down with an interviewer who said on his program Friday night that it was "a day when all of us should be celebrating."
Carlson, along with colleagues Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, took victory laps during their shows and attacked politicians and media members who thought Rittenhouse should be convicted.
"For the authoritarians among us, this is a disaster," Carlson said. "They can’t let it go. Why? Because they understand the Rittenhouse case is a referendum on the most basic right of all — the ancient right of self-defense. If Kyle Rittenhouse can save his own life from the mob than you can, too, and that drives them insane."
Speaking to CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Friday, Richards said that Rittenhouse "is going to have some hard choices in his life about the direction he goes and what he stands for. These will have to be made by Kyle eventually. ... He needs to learn how to take responsibility and to tell people ‘no.’"
Richards also told journalist Ashleigh Banfield in a separate interview that while he’s "not a big FOX guy," he also had harsh words for some coverage he saw on CNN and MSNBC.
"It makes me angry that they can’t take the time to at least get the generic, basic facts correct, because it didn’t fit into the story they wanted to tell," he said.
Associated Press reporter Amy Forliti contributed from Minneapolis.