Donald Trump is demanding due process for former White House aide Rob Porter amid allegations that he abused two wives and a girlfriend, but critics say that is a drastic change in tone than Trump’s response to a group of black and Latino men wrongfully accused in one of New York City’s most notorious crimes.
This week, Trump took to the defense of Porter amid his resignation from the White House while facing allegations of spousal abuse. Though the former wives have offered evidence — including photographs — of the alleged abuse, Trump has remained in Porter’s corner and hinted on Saturday that the allegations are unfounded.
“Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation,” Trump tweeted. “Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”
The tweet was likely also referencing Trump speechwriter David Sorensen, who also resigned following allegations of spousal abuse.
That is a change in tone from one of Trump’s most controversial statements, a 1989 plea that five men accused of raping a jogger in Central Park to be put to death. Trump paid a reported $85,000 to take out full-page ads in four of New York’s biggest newspapers saying the men should be executed, The Week noted, even as critics claimed that the men were jailed on shaky evidence.
The Central Park Five were originally convicted of a brutal rape of a jogger in Central Park in 1989. The young men were subjected to intense questioning, NBC News noted, and their lawyers claimed that they were coerced into confessing. The men were later cleared by DNA evidence and a confession from another man who admitted that he was responsible for the assault. They were eventually freed and awarded $41 million in a 2014 settlement.
Even decades after the five men were exonerated of the charges by DNA evidence, Trump stood by his original stance and condemned the men. In 2014, he wrote a piece for the New York Daily News maintaining that he believed the men were guilty and calling their settlement the “heist of the century.”
When the issue came up during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump continued to maintain that he thought the men were guilty.
“They admitted they were guilty,” Trump said to CNN in a statement during the campaign, when Democrats used his calls for execution as an attack against Trump. “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.”
Critics say the Central Park Five case also highlights Donald Trump’s racist undertones, with Trump giving the benefit of the doubt to white men accused of horrific crimes (including both Porter and failed Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore) but calling for harsh justice to minorities accused of similar crimes.