Fact Check

Did an MSNBC Producer 'Follow' a Bus Containing Rittenhouse Jurors?

Judge Bruce Schroeder dramatically barred anyone from the news network from entering the court in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Published Nov 18, 2021

Updated Dec 1, 2021
KENOSHA, WISCONSIN - NOVEMBER 01:  JUDGE BRUCE E. SCHROEDER during jury selection on the first day of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial in Kenosha (Wisconsin) Circuit Court on November 1, 2021 in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  Rittenhouse faces seven charges including one count each of First Degree Intentional Homicide, First Degree Reckless Homicide, and Attempted First Degree Intentional Homicide. Rittenhouse, then 17, shot three people, two of them fatally during the unrest that followed the shooting of Jacob Blake seven times by a Kenosha police officer.  (Photo by Mark Hertzberg-Pool/Getty Images) (Mark Hertzberg-Pool/Getty Images)
Image Via Mark Hertzberg-Pool/Getty Images
In November 2021, an MSNBC producer intentionally followed a bus containing jurors in the murder trial of Kyle Rittenhouse.

As a Kenosha, Wisconsin, jury deliberated in the murder trial of Kyle Rittenhouse in November 2021, the judge in the case made a dramatic ruling, banning MSNBC from the court for the remainder of the trial.

On Nov. 18, Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder announced that "noone from MSNBC News will be permitted in this building for the duration of this trial," after police officers in the city said they had stopped a producer from the news network who, according to police, said he was acting under orders from a superior to follow a bus carrying jurors away from the courthouse.

An excerpted transcript of Schroeder's remarks can be found below, along with a short video:

We received a report this morning, from the Kenosha Police Department, that last evening...a person who identified himself as James J. Morrison, and who claimed that he was a producer with NBC News, employed for MSNBC, and under the supervision of...someone named Irene Byon in New York, for MSNBC.

The police, when they stopped him, because he was following in a distance of about a block, and went through a red light, pulled him over and inquired of him what was going on, and he gave that information, and stated that he had been instructed by Ms. Byon, in New York, to follow the jury bus. The matter is under further investigation at this point, and the media has asked questions about it. That's the latest I have.

He was ticketed for violating a traffic control signal. He's not here today from what I'm told. And I have instructed that noone from MSNBC News will be permitted in this building for the duration of this trial. This is a very serious matter and I don't know what the ultimate truth of it is, but absolutely it would go without much thinking that someone who's following the jury bus, that is a very — that's an extremely serious matter, and will be referred to the proper authorities for further action. Thank you.

Initially, we issued a rating of "Unproven" as to the claim that MSNBC reporter James Morrison had followed a bus containing jurors from the trial of Rittenhouse, because concrete evidence was lacking with regard to his actions and motivations.

However, on Nov. 30 Kenosha police released bodyworn camera footage of the traffic stop. That video footage clearly demonstrates that Morrison himself admitted to police he had been following the jury bus, and his supervising producer, Irene Byon, effectively admitted the same in a video-recorded phone conversation with police. As a result of this important new evidence, made public for the first time on Nov. 30, we are changing our rating from "Unproven" to "True."

The video footage can be watched in full below. An excerpted transcript of the two moments most directly relevant to this fact check can also be read below, and a copy of the Kenosha police field case report is available here. That document was forwarded to Snopes by Kevin Mathewson, who obtained it, and the bodycam footage, after filing a public records request with Kenosha police.

In the first exchange, Kenosha Police Officer Jerel Jones-Denson asks Morrison whether he was following the bus containing jurors when he ran a red light — the incident that prompted the traffic stop. Morrison says he was attempting to do what MSNBC's New York office had instructed him to do, and that that was to follow the bus:

Jones-Denson: So were you following a vehicle?
Morrison: I was trying to see — I was being called by New York going "Maybe these are people you need to follow," but I don't know. I was trying to —
Jones-Denson: You were trying to what?
Morrison: — just do what they told me to do.
Jones-Denson: New York told you to follow a vehicle?
Morrison: Yes.

In the second exchange, Jones-Denson uses Morrison's phone to call Byon, Morrison's supervising producer at MSNBC. Jones-Denson sets the phone to "speaker" mode, meaning the conversation is audible. While emphasizing that the network did not intend to make contact with any jurors, Byon acknowledged that their intention was to "try to see where key players in the trial may be at," while "keeping our distance" — a de facto admission that Morrison had indeed been instructed to follow the bus in his car, and had been doing just that when he was pulled over.

Byon: We were just trying to respectfully, just trying to see if it's possible to find any leads about the case. And so, we were just keeping our distance, just to see where people involved in the trial are positioned. By no means were we trying to get in contact with any of the jury members or [inaudible] in the car. We just were trying to see where key players in the trial may be at.

This article has been updated based on new information. The original version was last archived on Nov. 22, 2021.


Updated [Dec. 1, 2021]: Rating changed from "Unproven" to "True" and fact check updated after Kenosha police released bodyworn camera footage which clearly demonstrates that an MSNBC producer had indeed been following a bus transporting jurors from the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, on Nov. 17, 2021.

Dan Mac Guill is a former writer for Snopes.