President Donald Trump takes a question from a reporter before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on June 18, 2019, for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, and then on to Orlando, Florida for a rally.Andrew Harnik / AP
He called for them to get the death penalty after they were arrested and their criminal convictions were later vacated, but President Donald Trump on Tuesday wasn’t offering any apologies to the so-called “Central Park Five.”
“Why do you bring that question up now? It’s an interesting time to bring it up,” Trump told a reporter who asked if he would apologize to the five who were wrongly convicted of beating and raping a jogger in New York’s Central Park in 1989.
Their convictions, based on confessions they said were coerced, were vacated in 2002, after DNA evidence linked a serial rapist to the brutal crime. The city later agreed to a $41 million settlement with the four black men and one Latino man, all of whom who were 16 or younger at the time of their arrest.
The case has received renewed scrutiny in recent weeks in the wake of the release of “When They See Us,” a Netflix series about the case.
Calls for action have led the case’s lead prosecutor Elizabeth Lederer not to seek reappointment as a lecturer at Columbia Law School, while former prosecutor turned author Linda Fairstein was dropped by her publisher and resigned from Vassar College’s board of trustees.
Answering questions on the South Lawn of the White House before heading off to his re-election campaign rally in Florida on Tuesday, Trump echoed his controversial “both sides” comments about white supremacists who’d clashed with protesters in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.
“You have people on both sides of that,” Trump said of the case on Tuesday. “They admitted their guilt. If you look at Fairstein, and if 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.”
After the five, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, and Kharey Wise, were arrested, Trump took out a full-page ad in the local papers calling for the state to bring back capital punishment. “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE!” the ad blared.
“You better believe that I hate the people who took this girl and raped her brutally. You better believe it,” Trump told reporters then.
Trump criticized the city for settling their civil case in 2014, calling the deal “a disgrace” in an op-ed in the New York Daily News.
He maintained that stance during the 2016 campaign. “They admitted they were guilty,” Trump told CNN in a statement.
“The police doing the original investigation say they were guilty,” he said. “The fact that that case was settled with so much evidence against them is outrageous. And the woman, so badly injured, will never be the same.”