Donald Trump insists the five men who were exonerated for the rape of a jogger in Central Park in 1989 are actually guilty.
"They admitted they were guilty," the Republican presidential candidate told CNN this week. “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."
In 1989, five teenage boys were arrested and charged after a 28-year-old woman was found brutally beaten and sexually assaulted in the New York City park. After long interrogations, the teens, who became known as the “Central Park Five,” confessed to the crime. They each pleaded not guilty at trial, but were convicted and sentenced to prison.
But in 2002, the charges were dropped against the men after convicted murderer and rapist Matias Reyes confessed. Investigators were also able to find DNA connecting Reyes to the Central Park rape. No DNA evidence linking any of the five teens was ever recovered. And in 2014, the Central Park Five were awarded a $41 million settlement from the city.
Trump’s connection to the Central Park Five case dates back to the early days of the investigation. Just two weeks after the news broke of the attack, and before any of the teens had faced trial, Trump took out a full-page ad in the New York Daily News suggesting that the accused teens should face the death penalty with the headline: “Bring Back The Death Penalty. Bring Back The Police!”
“I want to hate these muggers and murderers,” Trump wrote. “They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes. They must serve as examples so that others will think long and hard before committing a crime or an act of violence.”
After the settlement was reached in 2014, Trump wrote another piece for the Daily News calling it a “disgrace.”
“My opinion on the settlement of the Central Park Jogger case is that it’s a disgrace,” Trump wrote. “A detective close to the case, and who has followed it since 1989, calls it 'the heist of the century.'
“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.”
Yusef Salaam, one of the men who was accused, told CNN he wants an apology from Trump.
“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,'” Salaam said.
BuzzFeed News has reached out to the Trump campaign for further comment.
Raymond Santana, one of the Central Park Five, responded to Trump's comments on Twitter:
Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon, the co-directors of PBS documentary “The Central Park Five” told BuzzFeed News in a statement: “Mr. Trump's comments on the five young men who were wrongfully convicted in the Central Park Jogger case are part of his worn out pattern of denying facts and evidence to promote a perverse alternate reality in which people of color are seen as a threat to America.”
Here's Hillary Clinton's statement:
"The facts here are clear: These men were exonerated. Another man has admitted to committing the crime, as proven by DNA evidence. Trump rushed to judgment on the case, has refused to admit he is wrong and continues to peddle yet another racist lie, a pattern for him and a clear reason why he is unfit to be president."