Trump has a long history of insisting the boys were guilty despite their eventual exoneration and another person confessing to the crime

By Adam Carlson
June 19, 2019 01:43 PM

President Donald Trump on Tuesday declined to apologize to the “Central Park Five,” a group of teenage boys wrongfully imprisoned for assaulting a jogger in New York City in the ’80s.

Trump had been asked about the case given his long history of insisting the five boys were guilty.

“You have people on both sides of that. They admitted their guilt,” he told reporters outside the White House as he was headed to an event for his 2020 re-election campaign.

He also claimed that some of the prosecutors involved in the case “think that the city should never have settled …. So we’ll leave it at that.”

Not long after the April 1989 attack, Trump took out sensational newspaper ads calling for New York to resume executing people. He did not name the five boys, then suspected of the crime, but the implication was clear.

“At what point did we cross the line from the fine and noble pursuit of genuine civil liberties to the reckless and dangerously permissive atmosphere which allows criminals of every age to beat and rape a helpless woman and then laugh at her family’s anguish?” Trump wrote.

“Muggers and murderers,” according to Trump, “should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes.”

His histrionic remarks continued for decades — even after the five were exonerated, awarded millions following their wrongful imprisonment and another person confessed. But that didn’t convince Trump.

Following the announcement of the city’s 2014 settlement, Trump wrote an op-ed for the New York Daily News in which he called the decision a “disgrace.”

“Settling doesn’t mean innocence, but it indicates incompetence on several levels,” he wrote.

“Speak to the detectives on the case and try listening to the facts,” he continued. “These young men do not exactly have the pasts of angels.”

That June, he tweeted, “I’d bet the lawyers for the Central Park 5 are laughing at the stupidity of N.Y.C. when there was such a strong case against their ‘clients.’ “

In October 2016, on the verge of being elected president, he reiterated his opinion.

“[The Central Park Five] admitted they were guilty,” Trump said in a statement to CNN. “The police doing the original investigation say they were guilty. 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.”

The case returned to the spotlight last month with a Netflix miniseries, When They See Us. Writer-director Ava DuVernay told PEOPLE that Trump’s behavior was “unconscionable.”

“It’s something we need to remember and not let be drift off into the annals of history where it’s something that we don’t really contribute to the person who’s now running our country,” she said.

Trump “contributed at the time to an air of inevitability of their guilt, which [was] catastrophic for the lives of these five men and their families,” DuVernay said.

In a 2016 op-ed for the Washington Post, one of the five, Yusef Salaam, wrote:

“In some ways, I feel like I’m on trial all over again. I know what it is to be a young black man without a voice — like Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown, who were killed and then crucified in the press. Even though the Central Park Five were found innocent by a court of law, we are still guilty in the eyes of many. That brings a certain kind of stress.”