Director Ava DuVernay didn’t expect President Donald Trump to apologize for urging the execution of the five teenagers known as the Central Park Five, more than 30 years after they were falsely accused of raping a jogger, as dramatized in her Netflix miniseries “When They See Us.”
“It’s expected,” she said at a screening of the show Tuesday night in Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Times. “There’s nothing he says or does in relation to this case, or the lives of black people, or people of color, that has any weight to it. It’s not our reality, there’s no truth to it.”
In the immediate aftermath of the 1989 incident, Trump notoriously took out a full-page newspaper ad to call on New York officials to reinstate the death penalty for the five black and Latino teenagers: Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise.
On Tuesday, when asked by reporter April Ryan if he plans to apologize, the president declined, using a familiar refrain — claiming there were “people on both sides,” appearing to side with the prosecutors who wrongfully convicted the teenagers.
After the president’s comments, DuVernay also tweeted a clip from the series that briefly references the ad and features Trump appearing on TV at the time.
Trump’s role in the case was an early example of the then-real estate mogul’s racism and fear-mongering against people of color, long before his presidential run.
When asked about the case during his 2016 campaign, Trump still maintained that the men were guilty, despite DNA evidence exonerating them in 2002.
While promoting the series in recent weeks, DuVernay has called out Trump’s legacy of racism.
Trump also briefly appears in the director’s 2016 Oscar-nominated documentary “13th,” on the mass incarceration of black and Latino men, and how white politicians have used racism as a potent political tool.
On Tuesday, DuVernay argued against giving Trump’s comments more oxygen, such as “rage-tweeting back and participating in the negativity that’s so unproductive” — saying that, like in her series, she hopes that people focus on the stories of the five men.
“I wish I had a more juicy sound bite, but I don’t care,” she said.