President Donald Trump hit a nerve with critics Monday when he argued presidential hopeful Joe Biden would fall flat with Blacks voters due to his support of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.
“Anyone associated with the 1994 Crime Bill won’t have a chance of being elected,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “In particular, African-Americans won’t be able to vote for you . I, on the other hand, was responsible for Criminal Justice Reform, which had tremendous support, & helped fix the bad 1994 Bill!”
The president pointed out then-Sen. Biden’s (D-Del.) “heavy” involvement in the passage of the controversial bill, which critics argue contributed to the mass incarceration of Black and Latino men in the mid-to-late ’90s.
“That was a dark period in American History,” Trump continued. “But has Sleepy Joe apologized? No!”
For many, the president’s remarks rang hollow considering his own callous attitude toward a group of young Black and Latino men wrongly convicted in the Central Park Five case. Trump, a millionaire real-estate developer at the time, took a out a full-page newspaper ad calling for the return of the death penalty for five teens — Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Korey Wise, Yusef Salam and Antron McCray — accused in the brutal rape and assault of a white female jogger in New York City’s Central Park on April 19, 1989.
“Bring back the death penalty!” the ad read. “Bring back our police!”
The young men would spend between 6 to 13 years in prison before being exonerated in the case, after DNA evidence from the rape kit did not match theirs. Matias Reyes, a convicted murderer and serial rapist already serving time behind bars, confessed to the rape in 2002.
Trump has remained defiant, however, maintaining his belief that the Central Park Five are indeed guilty.
“These men called the Central Park 5 are still waiting for your apology Donald,” one Twitter user wrote. “Remember you took out a full page and called for their execution.”
“Oh look, the guy who wants black people given rough rides in police vans and who supported summary execution of the Central Park Five has something to say,” wrote another.
Rolling Stone writer Jamil Smith said: “Trump’s tweet about the 1994 crime bill takes all of us for fools. His treatment of the Central Park Five fanned the flames for that legislation. He still has not acknowledged that they are innocent, despite their exoneration. Ask him about that this week.”
Symone D. Sanders, a CNN political analyst, also criticized Trump for taking sole credit for the work of others.
“To watch Trump take credit for the “first step” of many criminal reforms when 1) other folks actually did the work for the bill and 2) he is still on record disparaging the Central Park Five is exhausting and disingenuous,” she said in a tweet Monday. “Trump lives far from the truth.”
During a rally in New Hampshire early last week, Biden defended his role in crafting the 1994 crime bill, which included tough-on-crime provisions such as the “three-strikes” rule that imposed mandatory life sentences for repeat offenders. The bill not only advocated for stricter sentencing laws, but bolstered funding for more federal prisons and more officers for local law enforcement agencies.
“One-third of the $10 billion was for prevention,” Biden, 76, told voters. “I got made fun of because it’s just Biden spending money not fighting crime, on prevention.”