‘The Best Revenge’: Central Park 5 Exoneree Yusef Salaam Hits Back at Donald Trump with Ad Nearly 34 Years After the Ex-President Took Out a Full-Page Spread Calling for His Execution

In 1989, Donald Trump took out a full-page ad in the New York Times urging the execution of the Central Park Five, five teens wrongfully accused of raping and assaulting a woman in the city’s landmark park.

More than 30 years later, on the day of Trump’s historic arraignment on a 34-count indictment, Dr. Yusef Salaam, one of the exonerated men from that case, makes a mock ad addressing the real estate mogul’s current case.

Yusef Abdus Salaam Publishes Ad in Response to Donald Trump
Yusef Abdus Salaam, left, one of the five teenagers wrongfully accused of raping and killing a woman in 1989, published a mock ad in response to a full-page ad that Donald Trump, right, that year. (Photos: Getty Images)

The headline copy mirrors that of the then-real estate mogul, but instead of calling for the “death penalty” and heavier policing, his ad called for “justice and fairness” for his beloved Harlem.

The New York City Council hopeful tweeted news about his ad around 8 p.m. on Tuesday, April 4, the night the Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office formally presented the charges against the 45th president of the United States.

Trump, the first president to be indicted, is charged with several Class E felonies, including falsifying business records in an effort to possibly evade New York tax laws. He is also accused of falsifying business documents to hide a series of state and federal election crimes. Of these crimes is an instance where one of his associates paid adult entertainer Stormy Daniels not to speak publicly about her illicit affair with Trump in 2006 during his presidential campaign.

The prosecution alleges it has proof that Trump reimbursed his associate the monies used on the bribe in $35,000 increments by check — thus breaking the law.

Salaam, who was incarcerated and spent 13 years with the label of a rapist before being exonerated,  headline in bold capital letters read, “BRING BACK JUSTICE & FAIRNESS. BUILD A BRIGHTER FUTURE FOR HARLEM!”

The note that follows reads, “On May 1, 1989, almost thirty-four years ago, Donald J. Trump spent $85,000 to take out full-page ads in The New York Times, New York Daily News, New York Post, and New York Newsday, calling for the execution of the Central Park Five, an act he has never apologized for, even after someone else confessed to and was convicted of the crime, the convictions of all five of us were overturned, and we were renamed the Exonerated Five.”

Trump’s headlines barked, “Bring Back The Death Penalty, Bring Back Our Police!”

His intention was to have executed the boys from Central Park Five — Kevin Richardson, 14, Raymond Santana, 14, Antron McCray, 15, Korey Wise, 16, and Salaam, 15.

Trump said in the copy of the ad, “I want to hate these murderers and I always will. I am not looking to psychoanalyze or understand them, I am looking to punish them.”

In addition to the ads, Trump also did a media blitz pushing for the teenagers to get the death penalty. Luckily, the teens were not placed on death row for the rape of jogger Trisha Meili. In 2002, Matias Reyes confessed to the crime, and the men were released from prison.

Salaam took to Twitter before the indictment. He tweeted this is “karma” coming back on Trump.

“For those asking about my statement on the indictment of Donald Trump – who never said sorry for calling for my execution – here it is: Karma,” Salaam wrote on Twitter.

Salaam alluded that Trump uses similar media tactics to push his agenda in 2023. He wrote, “Here is my message to you, Mr. Trump: In response to the multiple federal and state criminal investigations that you are facing, you responded by warning of ‘potential death and destruction’ and by posting a photograph of yourself with a baseball bat, next to a photo of Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg.”

“These actions,” the copy continued, “just like actions leading up to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, are an attack on our safety.”

Since his conviction was overturned, Salaam has spent the last two decades pushing for prison reform, according to his website. He and his Exonerated 5 brothers have also been featured in Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon’s “The Central Park Five” documentary and the Emmy award-winning Netflix series “When They See Us,” written and directed by Ava DuVernay.

In 2016, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from President Barack Obama.

Salaam currently serves as a board member of the Innocence Project, a founding member of Justice 4 the Wrongfully Incarcerated, and a 25-year member of the Frederick E. Samuel Community Democratic Club.

In 2023, he announced his candidacy for a seat on the City Council representing his beloved village of Harlem’s 9th District. His platform is to support a fair justice system for all New Yorkers — even Trump.

In his ad, Salaam did not call for “harm” to be done to the indicted politician. Nor did he rush to comment on his innocence. He simply stated he was “putting his faith in the judicial system to seek out the truth,” adding that even Trump is presumed innocent.

Many on Twitter applauded Salaam for his gracious response to the former president.

“The best revenge is to live life honorably and to the fullest. Much respect sir!,” wrote one user.

“You are incredibly gracious and are making such a positive impact in the world. I admire and thank you greatly, sir. You are the exact opposite of the evil trump, and you persevered despite your trauma. You are a great man. Peace,” wrote Lisa Milan.

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