Over the past week, several CNN hosts have returned to repeating the discredited myth that Donald Trump once lobbied for a group of innocent underage teens to not only be convicted of a rape they may not have committed, but that he even pushed for them to be executed.
On Wednesday's CNN Tonight, Don Lemon even devoted a segment to speaking with two of the now adult members of the Central Park Five as he sought to portray President Trump as hypocritical for defending U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh from sexual assault accusations.
CNN hosts Van Jones and Anderson Cooper have also pushed the notion of hypocrisy by claiming Trump advocated for the accused teens to be executed before they were found guilty. Jones claimed that Trump "wanted them executed with no process at all" as he appeared on Wednesday'a Erin Burnett Outfront, and on Thursday's New Day, Jones asserted that Trump "wanted the death penalty with no facts."
On Wednesday's CNN Tonight, Lemon declared: "He once spent $85,000 placing full-page ads in New York City newspapers calling for the death penalty for the Central Park Five -- black and Latino -- black and brown teenagers who were eventually exonerated of raping a white jogger in Central Park."
But none of the CNN hosts informed viewers that the ad in question made a general call for a return to the death penalty without advocating it for a specific case. In fact, it is also important to be aware that there was no death penalty provision in the state of New York in the 1980s, and, in April 1989 when the Central Park rape happened, there had recently been a debate over the issue in the legislature to pass a new death penalty law -- which suggests that the purpose of the ad was primarily to affect passage of a new law which would have to happen before it could be applied to any future cases.
Lemon then played a clip of Trump from an appearance on CNN's Larry King Live from May 1989 a couple of weeks after the ad ran in which he seemed to be indicating that, if the suspects turned out to be guilty and the victim died, the perpetrators deserved the death penalty.
But the CNN host omitted a later portion of the same interview in which Trump added the caveat that he only supported the death penalty for adults who commit murder -- stating that the ad "doesn't mean for minors" -- which would have excluded the Central Park Five who were all underage. Trump then added that minors should get longer prison sentences:
If the woman died, the perpetrator should die -- there's no question about it -- if they're at a certain age. If they're minors, they should be treated very strongly.
Now, the problem is, so many crimes today are being committed by 15- and 16- and 17-year-olds, and they go away for six months, or they go away a year to reform school. And then they get out, and they're out to do it again.
Something has to be done, and it has to be done quickly. Those so-called kids have to be put in a very, very secure and solid prison system for many years.
The clip Lemon used also managed to undermine the CNN host's premise that Trump prejudged their guilt as Trump stated that he was not "prejudging" their guilt.
Also not mentioned is that the reason the suspects were widely believed to be guilty at the time was because they initially confessed to taking part in the attack before later recanting. In fact, even the film that was devoted to defending them claimed that they were "beating up other people" in another part of the park while the attack on the jogger was being perpetrated, suggesting they may have taken part in attacks on about seven other people who were attacked in the park on the same night by several dozen rampaging teens.
It is also noteworthy that, while much of the media -- especially CNN and MSNBC -- have over the past couple of years portrayed Trump as unhinged because he still believes the Central Park Five were guilty in spite of the city of New York paying them tens of millions of dollars for allegedly wrongful conviction, the lead prosecutor who handled their case, Linda Fairstein, has also stood by her investigative team's findings, and she is still considered credible enough to make five appearances on MSNBC in the past week where she has given commentary on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's sexual assault accusations against Kavanaugh.