Before he began his shameful race for the presidency, even before he started his racist campaign to delegitimize Barack Obama by calling into question his American citizenship, there was one low-light from Donald Trump’s past that clued everyone in to the kind of reprehensible creature he was and had always been. That was Trump’s role in the so-called “Central Park Five” controversy.
For those too young to remember, in 1989 five young men — four black and one Puerto Rican — were charged in a horrific attack on a white woman who had been jogging through Central Park. She’d been beaten to within an inch of her life and raped — and at the time, Trump took out a full-page ad in local newspapers demanding that New York’s death penalty be reinstated so that the accused attackers could all be executed (despite the fact that the victim in the case had survived the incident).
The Central Park Five spent several years behind bars, but in 2002 all charges against them were dropped after a rapist and killer named Matias Reyes confessed to the crime and was definitively tied to it through DNA evidence. (No DNA evidence pointed to any of the teens.) The city settled with the former suspects for $41 million and their names were cleared once and for all.
While normal, decent people would at best admit they were wrong in calling for the execution of five innocent men — and would at least drop it, as they’d feel embarrassed by it — Donald Trump obviously isn’t a normal, decent person. Maybe that’s why it’s now coming to light that this week, during an interview with CNN, Trump doubled-down on his earlier statements about the Central Park Five.
“They admitted they were guilty,” he told 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.” Trump denies the possibility of a coerced confession from a couple of scared kids at the center of a racially charged firestorm of a case, one the NYPD was determined to close and hang around the necks of black “thugs.”
Trump is still more than happy to tear into the City for settling with the Central Park Five in the first place and into Mayor Bill DeBlasio, who’s signaled a willingness to hand over even more money to those wrongly imprisoned. “They should be very thankful I wasn’t mayor because they wouldn’t have gotten a dime,” Trump says.
It’s tough to know where to begin with something like this. The easy thing to do is to once again just throw something across the room and shout about how Trump is a fucking scumbag, a man more interested in appearing tough in the face of the colored menace to his almost entirely white, resentful fan base than in actual justice. The Central Park Five were exonerated. They were proven innocent by DNA and by the justice system. But of course that’s not good enough for Trump.
To Donald Trump, it likely doesn’t even matter whether the Central Park Five are or aren’t guilty. Sacrificing them in the name of firing a shot across the bow of criminals everywhere and as a means of standing up for the police, who never, ever, under any circumstances screw up — and even if they do, who cares, since they stand on a wall dividing “them” from “us” — is an unfortunate necessity in the name of maintaining law and order.
What’s more, this is Donald Trump we’re talking about — someone for whom facts are whatever he says they are at any given moment. Trump doesn’t make mistakes because mistakes are a sign of weakness. He’s always right. He’s right even when evidence directly contradicts him. Reality is solely the determination of Donald Trump. Now, needless to say, this is the thinking of a narcissistic lunatic. But in this case, it also happens to be the thinking of a man who wants to be the most powerful person in the world.
Imagine that for a minute.