Did Donald Trump plead for “retaliation from the courts” in a 1989 newspaper ad?


In a 1989 newspaper ad, following a brutal rape and caning in Central Park, Donald Trump called for “respect for authority, fear of retribution from the courts, society and the police for those who break the law.”



When former US President Donald Trump appeared in court in a Manhattan criminal court on April 4, 2023 on felony charges, a reader asked Snopes if Trump had placed an ad in four New York newspapers on May 1, 1989. Striving for social change that would supposedly initiate “the fear of retaliation from the courts” in criminal suspects.

Trump became the first American President be prosecuted with reference to alleged hush money payments to adult ex-movie star Stormy Daniels, with whom he allegedly had a sexual encounter. Trump reportedly made the payments weeks before the 2016 presidential election. Seven years later, the Manhattan court indicted him further 34 offenses.

“Is that true?” The reader asked Snopes, referring to Trump’s comments in the 1989 ad: “What about the respect for authority, the fear of retribution from the courts, society and the police for those who break the law, who willfully… the rights of others? How can our great society tolerate the continued brutalization of its citizens by crazed outsiders? – From a full-page advertisement placed by Donald Trump in four New York newspapers on May 1, 1989.”

We found the quotes attributed to Trump to be true.

Trump ran the ads in four newspapers after New York City police arrested five teenagers in April 1989 in Manhattan’s Central Park on suspicion of assaulting, beating and raping a white woman. The defendants were black and Hispanic youth between the ages of 14 and 16.

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In an ad for The Daily News headlined “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE!” the execution of the “robbers” and “murderers”. During his interview with Larry King on CNNTrump defended those ads.

All five youths, known as “Central Park 5”, were relieved in December 2002. Then she won a $40 million judgment in 2014 against the City of New York for false convictions. Even after the five accused were exonerated following a DNA match with serial rapist Matias Reyes and his confession to the crimes, Trump refused to apologize for demanding the death penalty against the wrongly accused youth.

Before, during and after his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump was also accused of making racist remarks targeting racial and ethnic groups. These kinds of controversial remarks has a long history dating back to the 1970s.

On April 4, 2023, the day Trump was indicted, one of the five 1989 indictees, Yusef Abdus Salaam, who was 15 in 1989, posted a similar-looking ad on his Twitter feed – “BRING BACK JUSTICE & FAIRNESS. BUILD A BRIGHTER FUTURE FOR HARLEM” – with the comment: “Over 30 years ago, Donald Trump ran full-page ads calling for my execution. On the day he was arrested and charged, here is my ad in response.”

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Salaam’s ad demanding justice attempted to echo the language and tone of Trump’s 1989 ad.

“Here’s my message to you, Mr. Trump: In response to the numerous federal and state criminal investigations you face, you have warned of ‘possible death and destruction’ and posted a photo of yourself with a baseball bat. alongside a photo of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. These actions, like your actions leading up to the January 6 riot in the US Capitol, are an assault on our security. Thirty-four years ago, your full-page ad said in capital letters: civil liberties end when an attack on our security begins. You were wrong then and you are wrong now. The civil liberties of all Americans are established in the US Constitution.”

We therefore rate the claim about Trump’s quotes in the 1989 ad as “true.”


“Condemnation and Exoneration.” The Central Park Five | Ken Burns | PBS, accessed April 5, 2023.

Lopez, German. “Donald Trump’s long history of racism, from the 1970s to 2020.” Vox, July 25, 2016,

Neuman, Scott. “‘Central Park 5’ Wins $40M From NYC For False Beliefs.” NPR, June 20, 2014. NPR,

Ransom, Jan. “Trump Will Not Apologize for Demanding the Death Penalty Over Central Park Five.” The New York Times, June 18, 2019. NYTimes.com,

Trump in Central Park Five interview 1989: “Maybe hate is what we need” | CNN business. 2016. www.cnn.com,

“Trump Returns to New York to Face Historic Criminal Charges.” AP-NEWS, April 3, 2023,

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/trump-ask-for-retribution-by-courts-in-1989-ad/ Did Donald Trump plead for “retaliation from the courts” in a 1989 newspaper ad?

Brian Ashcraft

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