An elected official’s declaration that “Hate has no place in our country” would normally be routine, a self-evident response to mass murders. But for President Donald Trump, it amounts to a flip-flop; for he has not only subtly encouraged hatred, but openly advocated it.
The most glaring example was the May 1, 1989 advertisement he placed in four metro New York dailies to assail the black and Latino teenagers arrested in the brutal rape of a white jogger in Central Park—the youths who were infamously convicted but later exonerated after serving prison sentences. He paid money to say:
Mayor Koch has stated that hate and rancor should be removed from our hearts. I do not think so. I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes.… Yes, Mayor Koch. I want to hate these murderers [note: the victim was not killed] and I always will. I am not looking to psychoanalyze them or understand them. I am looking to punish them.
Trump’s ad has often been cited as evidence that he is racist; it returned to the news this year when it figured in the plot of Ava DuVernay’s docudrama on the Central Park Five, When They See Us. But in retrospect, the ad also gives an early glimpse of Trumpian politics: the developer was stirring hatred in a racially tense New York City to undermine Edward Koch’s attempt to win a record fourth term as mayor. Trump, at the time a major donor in New York City political campaigns, had been feuding with Koch for several years. Koch had turned down Trump’s demand that the city subsidize NBC’s move from Rockefeller Center to the giant Television City development Trump envisioned for the Upper West Side waterfront. “Piggy, piggy, piggy Donald Trump,” Koch needled, each word sticking in Trump like a banderilla. Trump struggled to compete with Koch in exchanging tabloid insults; no one other than the comedian Don Rickles was better than Koch at this game.