Donald Trump has thanked a convicted rapist for endorsing him.
Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson recently told The Huffington Post that Trump “should be president of the United States.” Trump soon tweeted, “Thanks Iron Mike, greatly appreciated!” A couple of days later, Trump thanked Tyson again.
In 1992, an Indianapolis jury found Tyson guilty of raping an 18-year-old woman the year before. The judge sentenced him to 10 years in prison, and suspended four of those years. Tyson ended up serving three.
Between his imprisonment and an ongoing requirement to register as a sex offender, Tyson has paid a price for his crime. The real issue today is about Trump, who has a longstanding relationship with Tyson. After the conviction, he urged authorities not to send Tyson to prison. Instead, he proposed that they let Tyson keep fighting, with some of the proceeds going to rape victims.
Such an arrangement would actually have been a terrific deal … for Trump. With all the publicity surrounding the case, Tyson prizefights on Trump properties would have been a bonanza, particularly at a time when Trump was having financial problems. Indiana officials were not buying. “An offer to buy someone out of prison or out of a sentence is not appropriate,” said one official, who added that Trump’s suggestion “is something that the prosecutor’s office does not take seriously.”
More broadly, the whole episode raises the question of whether Trump believes in one set of standards for indigent defendants and another for the wealthy and their celebrity friends. At a press conference, a reporter asked Trump: “If your sister was raped by a millionaire, would you encourage her to accept a big bundle of cash to forget everything?” His answer: “I think every individual situation is different.”
Trump himself has made rape an issue in the 2016 campaign. Earlier this year, he falsely blamed immigrants for committing a disproportionate share of rapes. "Well, somebody's doing the raping….,” he said, “I mean somebody's doing it! Who's doing the raping? Who's doing the raping?” Thus he smeared an entire group of people, few of whom have committed this crime, yet publicly accepted the endorsement of someone who has.
If reporters asked Trump about this issue, how would he respond?
Recently, he dismissed an embarrassing tweet as an accident by an intern. But in this case, he thanked Tyson at least twice, which would undercut the intern-accident alibi. Moreover, Trump’s interns reportedly do not even have access to his Twitter account. And then there’s that 1992 jail buyout plan, which Trump discussed in person.
Most likely, Trump would say that the case illustrates the need for sentencing reform. True, many people advocate alternatives to prison – but for nonviolent offenses such as drug possession. Even while backing shorter sentences for drug offenders, the president said, “I tend not to have a lot of sympathy when it comes to violent crime.”
And rape is a violent, horrible crime that happens to thousands of American women every year. Through his public statements, Trump has insulted every one of these victims.
Jack Pitney writes his Looking for Trouble blog exclusively for the Monitor.