When heavyweight-boxing champion Mike Tyson was convicted in 1992 of raping a beauty pageant contestant, his friend Donald Trump came to his defense — advocating for a way Tyson could avoid prison time and publicly defending the boxer’s character.
As first reported by Mother Jones, Trump suggested Tyson could pay the contestant, Desiree Washington, with money from a fight to avoid serving a jail sentence, and he said of Tyson, “After knowing Mike, I don’t know how it did happen.”
But in video obtained by BuzzFeed News, Trump went a step further by more directly suggesting Washington wasn’t a victim of rape at all.
“You have a young woman that was in his hotel room late in the evening at her own will,” Trump said in an NBC Nightly News video package obtained by BuzzFeed News through the Vanderbilt University Television News Archive. “You have a young woman seen dancing for the beauty contest—dancing with a big smile on her face, looked happy as can be.”
“It’s my opinion that to a large extent, Mike Tyson was railroaded in this case,” Trump also said in the package, which aired on Feb. 21, 1992.
Trump and Tyson’s friendship goes back 30 years. Trump hosted several boxing matches featuring Tyson in the 1980s, and could have potentially made millions off a Tyson boxing match against Evander Holyfield if his Atlantic City casino landed the event. He argued at the time Tyson avoiding jail would help “far more people” by “allowing the tremendous sums of money from his fights to be put into funds used for rape victims.”
Tyson was sentenced to six years in prison, and was released after serving only three.
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