Charlie Kirk makes false accusations about exonerated “Central Park Five” defendant and NYC Council member Yusef Salaam

After deleting an earlier post on X, Kirk insinuated that Salaam had been involved even though a court vacated his conviction in 2002. The initial post is still on Kirk's Telegram channel as of publication.

Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk doubled down on Monday on a false accusation that the exonerated “Central Park Five” defendant Yusef Salaam was involved in the assault and rape of a jogger in Manhattan in 1989. Salaam’s conviction was vacated in 2002, following a judge’s ruling and the Manhattan district attorney’s decision not to retry the case.

Salaam and his co-defendants later successfully sued New York City for $41 million, though the city did not admit to any wrongdoing. The five defendants received an additional $3.9 million from New York state. No physical evidence has ever been found to tie the five defendants — who are all Black or Latino and were teenagers at the time — to the assault.

Despite these three judicial wins, Kirk resurfaced long-discredited accusations against Salaam — now a New York City Council member — after he was pulled over by the New York Police Department on January 26. Salaam criticized the NYPD officer for not providing him with a reason for the stop, though New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a former police officer, defended the interaction.

Kirk has posted about the incident at least twice, initially making definitive — and possibly defamatory — statements that Salaam was guilty of the 1989 assault. In the first tweet, Kirk claimed that Salaam “once took part in the gruesome gang rape of a jogger in Central Park,” adding that “after getting away with gang rape he apparently thinks he deserves to be completely above the law.”

Kirk makes false and inflammatory statements against NYC Councilman Yusuf Salaam, saying he "one took part in the gruesome gang rape of a jogger in Central Park," referencing the Central Park 5 case in which he was later exonerated

Citation Kirk's post to X, which has since been removed. You can see an archived version here.

Kirk later deleted that tweet, replacing it with a lengthy follow-up that nonetheless insinuated Salaam was involved in the 1989 rape. As of publication, the initial post is still live on Kirk’s channel on Telegram, an unmoderated social media platform popular with extremists, where his subscribers responded with violent, racist commentary. (Media Matters has censored the explicit racist slurs in those links.)

“Many people, even on the right, think the Central Park Five case is a story of five completely innocent men, railroaded at random by a racist justice system, who have now been fully and totally exonerated beyond doubt,” Kirk wrote, in part. “This is not true and I’ll explain why.”

Kirk’s post relies heavily on what’s known as the Armstrong report, an NYPD response to the vacated convictions, which The Daily Beast characterizes as advancing “tantalizing theories” that are “only partially undergirded by fully explored evidence.”

“The Armstrong report resembles a defense document more than a prosecution brief in its approach, throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks,” Daily Beast author Edward Conlon adds.

A New York Times article referred to the Armstrong report as “speculative,” and added that the account had fundamental factual errors. “The panel's report veers from other factual records on several points, in one place misquotes evidence in the public transcript, and overlooks other evidence that contradicts the panel's theory about how the crimes could have taken place in the time allotted,” the Times wrote.

Several of Kirk’s claims echo similar accusations that racist conservative writer Ann Coulter leveled against Salaam last November, following his election to the city council.

The Central Park Five have long faced racist attacks from right-wing figures, most notably former President Donald Trump. In 1989, Trump placed full-page ads in four New York City newspapers calling for the death penalty against the assailants in the case. In 2019, then-President Trump refused to apologize for the campaign, instead casting doubt on their exoneration.

Kirk and his guests have increasingly embraced openly anti-Black racist positions on his various shows and platforms. “If I see a Black pilot, I’m going to be like, ‘Boy, I hope he’s qualified,’” Kirk said earlier this month. Kirk recently called the Civil Rights Act of 1964 a “mistake,” and said celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. was “harmful” — part of a larger crusade he's waging against the landmark legislation and its leading proponent. 

“If I'm dealing with somebody in customer service who's a moronic Black woman, I don't — I wonder, is she there because of her excellence, or is she there because affirmative action?” Kirk said on January 3. His guest, the Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald, then proceeded to list off a host of racist claims about Black students.

On the same day, Kirk claimed that anti-racist activists “have ruined our cities,” and that mayors, district attorneys, and police won’t do “what is necessary, which is arresting Black criminals.”

In November, Kirk said, “Black crime is a major issue in our country.”

He’d made a similar argument last July against affirmative action. “What is the real problem exactly? The real problem is that Black fathers abandon the women that they impregnate,” Kirk said. “The problem is Blacks that kill themselves a lot — kill each other in inner cities. Black crime is a huge problem no one wants to talk about. It's not racism.”

In May, Kirk claimed, “Prowling Blacks go around for fun to go target white people — that’s a fact.”