The Central Park Five – Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Korey Wise were all teens under 18 when they were convicted of raping Central Park jogger Trisha Meili. In 2002, they were exonerated after Matias Reyes confessed to raping Meili, which was confirmed by DNA evidence. New York City awarded the men $41 million in 2014, after some of the men initially sued the city for how it handled the case.
The case has drawn a spotlight on the judicial system in multiple films and documentaries, including the award-winning limited series, “When They See Us” and the award-winning 2012 documentary “The Central Park Five.” ABC 20/20 is examining the case in a new episode airing Friday, August 21, 2020 at 9 p.m. EST.
Here is what Trump has said about the Central Park Five over the years:
1. Donald Trump Paid $85,000 in 1989 to Print a Full-Page Ad Calling to Reinstate the Death Penalty in New York
Donald Trump’s $85,000 ad campaign calling to reinstate the death penalty in 1989 became notorious in light of the Central Park Five case. Trump referenced the case in the ad, but did not specifically call for those involved with the case to be executed, saying “when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes.” The ad was placed in four New York papers, including The New York Times, The Daily News, The New York Post and New York Newsday on May 1, 1989, less than two weeks after the brutal rape and assault of Trisha Meili on April 19, 1989. At the time, Trump was a rising real estate businessman. You can read the full text of the ad here.
Trump’s ad took a hard stance on crime and backed police power, saying police forces should not be crippled by claims of police brutality. It said New York City lacked security as crime rates increased.
“Many New York families – White, Black, Hispanic and Asian – have had to give up the pleasure of a leisurely stroll in the Park at dusk, the Saturday visit to the playground with their families, the bike ride at dawn, or just sitting on their stoops – given them up as hostages to a world ruled by the law of the streets, as roving bands of wild criminals roam our neighborhoods, dispensing their own viscous brand of twisted hatred on whomever they encounter,” the ad said.
“They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes. They must serve as examples for their crimes,” Trump continued in the ad. “They must serve as examples so that others will think long and hard before committing a crime or an act of violence.”
2. Trump Defended His Ad Weeks Later, Saying ‘Maybe Hate Is What We Need’
CNN’s Larry King interviewed Trump about his ad calling to bring back the death penalty on May 17, 1989. King said “the casual reader” would find the ad “insightful” and “vigilante.”
“I don’t see anything insightful,” Trump answered. “I am strongly in favor of the death penalty. I am also in favor of bringing back police forces that can do something instead of just turning their back because every quality lawyer that represents people that are in trouble said the first thing they do is to start shouting ‘police brutality,’ etc.”
He discussed a separate rape and assault case that occurred in Brooklyn, saying he was asked by a reporter if he had compassion for the perpetrator.
“I said, ‘Of course I hate these people and let’s all hate these people because maybe hate is what we need if we’re gonna get something done,'” he said.
King responded, “Obviously,” and asked if Trump was pre-judging the teens instead of letting the courts decide who was guilty.
Trump answered that if the teens were found guilty and if the woman died, they should be executed.
You can watch Trump’s interview with King here.
3. Trump Said ‘You Have People on Both Sides of That’ When He Was Asked if He Would Apologize to the Central Park 5 in 2019
A reporter asked Donald Trump if he would apologize to the Central Park Five in June, 2019, shortly after the release of the Netflix series, “When They See Us,” a dramatization of the Central Park 5 case. Watch Trump answer the question here.
“Why do you bring that question up now? It’s an interesting time to bring it up,” Trump said. “You have people on both sides of that. They admitted their guilt.”
“If you look at Linda Fairstein and if you look at some of the prosecutors, they think that the city never should have settled that case — so we’ll leave it at that,” he added, referring to the former prosecutor who was running the Manhattan district attorney’s sex crimes unit at the time.
4. Trump Wrote on Twitter About the Central Park Five in 2013, Before Becoming President
Following the release of a documentary, “The Central Park Five,” and while a lawsuit against New York City was pending, Trump took to Twitter to state his opinions on the case. The Central Park Five had been exonerated of their crimes in 2002.
“The Central Park Five documentary was a one sided piece of garbage that didn’t explain the.horrific crimes of these young men while in park,” Trump wrote on Twitter April 24, 2013.
In a June 5, 2013 tweet, he wrote about the Central Park 5 on Twitter and said, “Yea, ask me about the muggers!”
In a June 29, 2013 tweet, he wrote, “‘How do you feel that the central park 5 were innocent’ Innocent of what-how many people did they mugg?”
In a June 22, 2014 tweet, referring to a settlement with New York City, Trump wrote on Twitter, “How much money are the lawyers for the Central Park Five getting out of the 40 million dollars, or are they paid by the City (or both)?”
5. Trump Wrote an Op-Ed in the Daily News in 2014 Saying ‘Settling Doesn’t Mean Innocence’
Donald Trump wrote an op-ed published in the Daily News on June 21, 2014, discussing the settlement in the Central Park Five case.
“My opinion on the settlement of the Central Park Jogger case is that it’s a disgrace. A detective close to the case, and who has followed it since 1989, calls it ‘the heist of the century,'” he wrote. “Settling doesn’t mean innocence, but it indicates incompetence on several levels. This case has not been dormant, and many people have asked why it took so long to settle? It is politics at its lowest and worst form. What about the other people who were brutalized that night, in addition to the jogger?”
He went onto say that too much money was spent on the case and that it was mishandled with information leaked to the media.
“Forty million dollars is a lot of money for the taxpayers of New York to pay when we are already the highest taxed city and state in the country. The recipients must be laughing out loud at the stupidity of the city. Speak to the detectives on the case and try listening to the facts. These young men do not exactly have the pasts of angels,” Trump wrote. “What about all the people who were so desperately hurt and affected? I hope it’s not too late to continue to fight and that this unfortunate event will not have a repeat episode any time soon — or ever.”