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CULTURE

Trump Won’t Apologize for Central Park Five Ad, Thirty Years Later

Donald Trump Sr. at #FITN in Nashua, NH, April 2015. Photo: Michael Vaedon
Donald Trump Sr. at #FITN in Nashua, NH, April 2015. Photo: Michael Vaedon

“They admitted their guilt. If you look at [former prosecutor] Linda Fairstein, you look at some of the prosecutors, they think that the city should never have settled that case, so we’ll leave it at that.”

President Trump refused to apologize on Tuesday for the full-page ad he ran in 1989 calling for the execution of accused teenagers dubbed the Central Park Five — who were eventually found innocent and exonerated in 2002. Public interest in the case has resurfaced with the new blockbuster miniseries on Netflix, “When They See Us”.

The new drama series, directed by Ava DuVernay and starring Felicity Huffman, Joshua Jackson, and John Leguizamo, has become the most watched series on Netflix in the U.S. every day since it premiered on May 31 of this year. It has contributed to the ongoing national debate on racial profiling and violence, considering all five accused teenagers were people of color.

On Tuesday, June 18, Trump was speaking with reporters outside the White House on his way to his reelection kickoff rally in Orlando. April Ryan, a journalist and White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, asked Trump if he would apologize to the men for the ad he ran in 1989 — when he was a private citizen and a famous real-estate tycoon at the time.

The ad run by Donald Trump in 1989 regarding the Central Park Five case.

Trump evaded any remorse.

“Why do you bring that up now? It’s an interesting time to bring that up,” Trump responded to Ryan. “You have people on both sides of that. They admitted their guilt. If you look at [former prosecutor] Linda Fairstein, you look at some of the prosecutors, they think that the city should never have settled that case, so we’ll leave it at that.”

In 1989, Trump took out the full-page ad in four New York City newspapers, in response to the brutal rape and beating of a female jogger in Central Park, ten days prior. Over a decade later in 2002, the accused men were exonerated by DNA evidence and another man’s confession to the crime.

The men have since revealed that they were coerced by authorities into confessing to the crime. New York City gave the five men, now in their mid-40s, a $41 million wrongful-conviction payout in 2014.

Trump is not the only person to be affected by the newly resurfaced public interest in the case.

Linda Fairstein, the Manhattan district attorney who led the wrongful prosecution of the Central Park Five, lost her book deal (as a crime novelist) due to the backlash resulting from the airing of the miniseries. She has also resigned from several boards on which she used to sit.

The lead prosecutor on the 1989 case, Elizabeth Lederer, also resigned last week from her position as lecturer at Columbia Law School, due to the sudden publicity resulting from the new Netflix series.

Considering his general behavior since becoming president, it’s not surprising how Trump is reacting to this very public and timely subject with the Central Park Five. He has two very clear options: admit his error in judgment which is corroborated by DNA evidence no less — showing his capacity for compassion, growth, and humility — or avert responsibility for his error, presumably to appear consistent and stoic, in an attempt to appear “strong”.

Which one would actually work in his favor?

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