President Donald Trump actually went there again: He pulled out his outrageous “both sides” line, this time in reference to the five black and Latino teens who were wrongfully convicted of attacking a white female jogger in 1989.
Trump infamously paid for full-page ads in several New York newspapers after the attack, calling for the execution of the teens, who came to be known as the “Central Park Five.”
All five men were exonerated by DNA evidence years later. But Trump doesn’t accept that. He railed against the 2014 settlement in an op-ed, and he still seems pretty dug in on his stance.
During a brief gaggle with reporters Tuesday afternoon before he departed for his official 2020 kickoff rally in Orlando, CNN reporter April Ryan asked him if he would apologize for those ads, which have been cited many times as evidence that he harbors racist views.
“You have people on both sides of that,” Trump said. “They admitted their guilt.”
“BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE,” said the Trump-funded ads, which ran ten days after the attack took place, while the victim was still in a coma. “I want to hate these murderers and I always will. I am not looking to psychoanalyze or understand them, I am looking to punish them."
In responding to April Ryan Tuesday, Trump wondered aloud why she would bring up the Central Park 5 — he must have missed all the buzz around the new Netflix miniseries about the case, “When They See Us,” directed by Ava DuVernay. The series casts the prosecutors who worked the case in a particularly unfavorable light. Elizabeth Lederer, who led the case and who still works for the district attorney’s office in Manhattan, resigned from her position at Columbia Law School amid growing student backlash. Linda Fairstein, the former head of the sex crimes unit for Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, resigned from the boards of Vassar College. Now a best-selling crime novelist, she was also dropped by her publisher following the release of the Netflix series. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Fairstein called the series “an outright fabrication.”
The five boys, aged 14 to 16, were convicted of rape and assault in 1990 and given prison sentences ranging from six to 16 years. They say they were coerced into confessing to attacking 28-year-old investment banker Trisha Meili. They were released and exonerated in 2002 after a convicted murderer confessed to the crime. His confession was supported by DNA evidence.
Trump’s remarks on Tuesday echoed his comments following the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, in August 2017. After the rally, which left a protester dead and dozens injured, he failed to issue a forceful condemnation of the neo-Nazis who marched in the Virginia college town. Instead, Trump said that there were “very fine people” on both sides of the rally.
Cover: President Donald Trump calls on a reporter before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 18, 2019, for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and then on to Orlando, Fla. for a rally. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)