The new Netflix miniseries When They See Us, which chronicles the Central Park Five, has been making headlines since its May 31 debut. While creator Ava DuVernay celebrates the victory of the men’s truths now being told to the masses, she’s not concerned with President Trump’s latest comments about them. If anything, she’s surprised it took him so long.
On Tuesday, Trump addressed the exonerated Five of the 1989 Central Park jogger case while failing to acknowledge their freedom and innocence. The same year the five teens of color were wrongly convicted for brutally raping a white female jogger, Trump bought full-page ads in New York newspapers calling to reinstate the death penalty. When the real assaulter admitted he committed the rape over a decade later, all of their charges were vacated. On Tuesday, Trump replied to a reporter asking if he’d apologize, saying, “You have people on both sides of that. They admitted their guilt. If you look at [DA] Linda Fairstein, and you look at some of the prosecutors, they think that the city should never have settled that case. So we’ll leave it at that.”
That same night, DuVernay responded to his statement during a conversation at a WGA screening series in Los Angeles and she wasn’t too fazed. “It’s expected. It’s not a big deal to me. There’s nothing that he says or does in relation to this case, in relation to the lives of five people, people of color, that really has any weight to it,” she said. “It’s not a reality. We already know this. So it’s kind of like, why do we keep banging our heads against the wall?”
Although she expected a Twitter reaction from Trump sooner, she’s not taking the bait now. “I’m surprised it took him so long, I was waiting every day to get a tweet!” she joked. “Our focus, when we look at this work, when we hear the stories of these men, should be so much more than a rage tweet back and participating in that negativity, which is so unproductive. I wish I had a more juicy sound bite for you. It’s just like, I don’t care.”
DuVernay, who became so close with the five men over the last four years (they text on a daily basis), feels she’s said their, and her, piece. “We told the story, the truth, these men are innocent. It’s as if it never happened. Now you’re just talking to the wind,” she continued. “It becomes more if we lean into it. We just refuse to do it. I told their story the way they told it to me, this is what they experienced, these are innocent men, free men, and they should be allowed to be that.”