More than 25 years after Donald Trump implicitly called for his execution, one of New York City’s falsely accused “Central Park Five” is asking for an apology—even as Trump continues to wrongly insist upon his guilt.
“I keep saying to myself, ‘One day, Donald Trump is gonna perhaps take a full page ad out and apologize to the Central Park Five,'” Yusef Salaam told CNN’s New Day. “That would be tremendous.”
Salaam was one of five teenagers—all people of color—wrongfully convicted and jailed for brutally assaulting and raping a white woman as she jogged through Central Park in 1989. In 2002, all of them were fully exonerated after the real culprit in the attack was identified and arrested.
Following their arrests, Donald Trump spent nearly $100,000 on four full-page ads in each of New York’s daily newspapers, demanding the reinstatement of the death penalty in response to the “roving bands of wild criminals” allegedly connected with the crime.
The ads were, in a sense, Trump’s first foray into the racially tinged “law and order” politics which propel his current presidential campaign.
“It was outrageous, the manner that Mr. Trump used to engage in his own personal form of rhetoric,” a lawyer for the wrongfully accused men told the New York Times in 2002. “A lot of people felt it colored the eyes of prospective jurors who ultimately sat on the case. Now it’s even more appalling, with new evidence that points exclusively to another person. I think Donald Trump at the very least owes a real apology to this community and to the young men and their families.”
To date, Trump has never apologized for running the ad, telling CNN in response to their interview with Salaam: “They admitted they were guilty. The police doing the original investigation said they were guilty. The fact that the case was settled with so much evidence against them is outrageous.” (Confessions made by the teens following their arrest were later recanted amid claims the admissions were coerced by police)
Following Trump’s remarks, Raymond Santana, another member of the Central Park Five, responded on Twitter.
In fact, despite the total repudiation of the facts which prompted Trump to take out his now infamous ad, the full-page spread is still celebrated by some of his most ardent supporters.
“He bought an ad,” Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) told the hosts of WAPI’s Matt & Aunie this past August. “People say he wasn’t a conservative—but he bought an ad 20 years ago in the New York Times calling for the death penalty. How many people in New York, that liberal bastion, were willing to do something like that?”
Salaam, for his part, has made no secret of his concerns over the prospect of a Trump presidency—concerns which have only grown the more Trump’s political prospects have risen. “To see that he has not changed his position of being a hateful person … what would this country look like with Donald Trump being the president?” Salaam told The Guardian in February. “I can’t even imagine.”
As for whether he expects Trump to actually do the right thing and apologize, Salaam seems to be a realist. Laughingly, he admitted to CNN, “I doubt it’s gonna happen.”