In 1990, a group of four black teens and one Latino teen were convicted of the brutal assault and rape of a jogger. The April 1989 attack came amid rising crime rates in New York City and a wave of violence in Central Park itself.
Despite the nonexistence of solid evidence, the five were convicted thanks to a confession they said was coerced by officers violently interrogating them while they were deprived of food and sleep. In 2002, their innocence was proven once and for all when another man confessed to the crime and his DNA was determined to match a sample found on the victim.
Even after the five agreed to a $41 million settlement with the city in 2014, Trump continued to suggest they were less than innocent.
“My opinion on the settlement of the Central Park Jogger case is that it’s a disgrace,” Trump wrote in a June 2014 New York Daily News op-ed. “What about the other people who were brutalized that night, in addition to the jogger?”
In a tweet posted the year before, Trump alluded to the wave of crime Central Park was experiencing at the time of the attack to suggest that even if the teens weren’t guilty of rape, they were still guilty of something.
@CoachClintSwan Tell me, what were they doing in the Park, playing checkers?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2013
Science ultimately confirmed the Central Park 5’s innocence. The courts concluded they were wrongfully imprisoned. Yet Donald Trump, who has a notoriously fast and loose relationship with the truth, still won’t acknowledge it.
In a statement sent to CNN this week on the occasion of a retrospective about the case, Trump didn’t back away from his previous comments, but instead cited the false confession the teens made. “They admitted they were guilty,” he wrote.
“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,” he added.
One of falsely accused "Central Park Five" speaks out: Donald Trump "was the fire starter, he lit the match" https://t.co/YPPRojdHs0
— New Day (@NewDay) October 6, 2016
During his presidential run, Trump has embraced racial profiling and stop-and-frisk policies that have been shown to unconstitutionally impact people of color. But his statements about the Central Park 5 indicate the extent he’s willing to go to deny science and the rule of law to “make America safe again.” They also reflect his unwillingness to admit when he’s wrong — a trait that was also displayed when Trump continued to suggest President Obama isn’t an American citizen for years after the racially-changed conspiracy theory was debunked.