Think back to candidate Donald Trump’s opening remarks when he walked down the stairs in Trump Tower to begin what would be his successful campaign to be the next POTUS.
The words most of us remember were these:
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” And then he conceded, “Some, I assume, are good people.”
So it was no surprise recently when Sean Spicer, now President Trump’s press secretary and the faithful creator of alternative facts to obscure real facts, brought up a rape case in a Maryland high school. One of the two teenagers charged was an illegal immigrant.
“The president recognizes that education is a state-run and a local-run issue,” Spicer said, “but I think it is – it’s a cause for concern, what happened there. And I think that the city should look at its policies, and I think that this is something that authorities are going to have to look at.
“I think part of the reason the president has made illegal immigration and crackdown such a big deal is because of tragedies like this. Immigration pays its toll on our people if it’s done – if it’s not done legally. And this is another example, and that’s why the president is so passionate about this.”
Rape is a terrible crime that leaves lifelong scars, and each and every day we are learning of more and more cases, especially on college campuses. And if the two Maryland suspects are guilty they should face a tough penalty.
Yet I can’t recall Spicer pointing out any rape cases before, including the thousands committed by American-born citizens. Not to mention those involving athletes, such as the Stanford case. But perhaps he doesn’t read the sports pages.
And speaking of sexual assault, maybe he didn’t see the Trump-Billy Bush bus exchange.
Many of us do remember Trump’s first venture into commenting on rape cases. This one didn’t involve illegal immigrants. The accused were five black teens: two 14, two 15 and one 16.
They were charged in the brutal rape assault in the Central Park jogger case and later convicted. But after they served years in prison the real rapist confessed, and DNA confirmed that the five young men were wrongly convicted.
What was Trump’s role?
In the heat surrounding the original arrest, trial and conviction he bought ads in all four New York daily newspapers under the headline: BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY! BRING BACK THE POLICE!
The Central Park Five were not mentioned by name. But the timing of the ad and the wording made the link inescapable.
Here is a piece of the message Trump wrote, complete with some all-cap words:
“Mayor (Ed) Koch has stated that hate and rancor should be removed from our hearts. I do not think so. I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, 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.
“Yes, Mayor Koch, I want to hate these murderers and I always will. I am not looking to psychoanalyze them or understand them, I am looking to punish them. If the punishment is strong, the attacks on innocent people will stop. I recently watched a newscast trying to explain ‘the anger in these young men.’ I no longer want to understand their anger. I want them to understand our anger. I want them to be afraid.
“How can our great society tolerate the continued brutalization of its citizens by crazed misfits? Criminals must be told that their CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS.”
That was 1989. In 2014, when the city of New York settled with the five men for their wrongful convictions with a combined $41 million, Trump called it “the heist of the century.” And then he attempted to justify his position by claiming, “These young men do not have the pasts of angels.”
What we do know is that eventually the angels of truth set them free.
Gregory Favre is the former executive editor of The Sacramento Bee and retired vice president of news for The McClatchy Co. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.