Charlie Kirk revealed over the weekend that he believes the Central Park Five, five men of color wrongly accused of raping a female jogger in 1989, were wrongly exonerated of the crime in 2002.
Kirk, a right-wing thought leader and the founder of Turning Point USA, posted online yesterday about Yusef Salaam, a New York City Council Member who said he was recently stopped by the NYPD department for no reason.
Police claimed Salaam was driving with illegally tinted windows, although he was not issued a citation.
Salaam is a member of the Central Park Five and was imprisoned for seven years in the 1990s after he was wrongly convicted of raping and physically assaulting Trisha Meili in Manhattan’s Central Park in 1989.
In addition to Salaam, the Central Park Five includes Antron McCray, Korey Wise, Kevin Richardson, and Raymond Santana. This election, Salaam ran for and was elected to New York City Council
Though Salaam’s conviction was overturned in 2002, Kirk believes he is guilty of the 1989 crime.
“New York City councilman Yusef Salaam, who once took part in the gruesome gang rape of a jogger in Central Park, is now furious that an NYPD officer dared to pull him over for having illegally tinted windows,” Kirk posted on Truth Social (initially on X as well). “Salaam wasn’t even arrested or given a ticket, but after getting away with gang rape he apparently thinks he deserves to be completely above the law. What a disgusting pig.”
Kirk shared a story about the incident, but it’s unclear why he’s outraged. In his statement about it, Salaam said that “the fact that the officer did not provide a rationale for the stop … calls into question how the NYPD justifies its stops of New Yorkers and highlights the need for greater transparency to ensure they are constitutional.”
After receiving an onslaught of backlash for his comments, Kirk deleted his tweet about Salaam. His post on Truth Social about the councilmember remains.
On X, though, Kirk elaborated on his theory concerning the Central Park Jogger case, noting he deleted the tweet because he wanted to provide more context.
“I said Salaam once ‘took part in a gruesome gang rape’ but did not elaborate. I should have said ‘Yusef Salaam once confessed to participating in a gang rape,'” Kirk wrote.
He said that Salaam “admitted to beating jogger Trisha Meili twice with a metal pipe, and to groping her breasts while others raped her,” which is true. But while Salaam did tell the police that he beat and groped Meili, it was later revealed that Salaam’s statements were a false confession and a result of extreme police pressure to confess.
Kirk specifically disputed the fact that Salaam was pressured into confessing by police threatening to physically beat him, saying that “not a single iota of evidence has ever been produced to support” Salaam’s account of his experience.
Kirk also said that Salaam’s fingerprints were found on Meili’s clothing, even though there wasn’t any physical evidence that linked any of the Central Park Five to the attack. There was, however, DNA evidence linking perpetrator Matias Reyes to the crime. Reyes confessed to raping and assaulting Meili in 2002.
Regarding Reyes, Kirk said, “Reyes’s confirmed involvement in no way debunks the possibility that others were involved.” This is a theory that Meili herself maintains. In 2019, she told ABC News that she still believes that she was attacked in 1989 by multiple assailants.
Many of Kirk’s claims about Salaam rely on the Armstrong Report, a 2002 investigation of the Central Park jogger case that alleges that the five wrongly accused men are guilty of the crime. Kirk, citing the report, said that blood was found on Salaam’s jacket and that “more likely than not” the Central Park Five “participated in an attack upon the jogger.”
Kirk also says that Salaam’s convictions were not vacated “for any actual reason,” but this is not true. Robert Morgenthau, the Manhattan District Attorney who convicted the Central Park Five, vacated the group’s convictions because of Reyes’ confession and the DNA evidence linking him to the attack.
Others besides Kirk believe that Salaam, McCray, Wise, Richardson, and Santana are guilty. A witness from the 1990 trial maintains that Wise told her he participated in the attack on Meili, which Ann Coulter—who, too, believes the five are guilty—has mentioned multiple times in columns about the case. A former NYPD police officer who arrested some of the Central Park Five also says they are guilty.
Former President Donald Trump, who took out a full-page ad in multiple New York newspapers in 1989 calling for New York City to “bring back the death penalty” after Meili was attacked, has also said that the five men are not innocent and that their settlement with the city is a “disgrace.”
In the wake of Kirk’s statements, some have encouraged Salaam to sue him.
“God, I hope Salaam sues Kirk for this flat out ugly lie,” journalist Isaac Bailey wrote on X.