At a rally in Indianapolis, GOP frontrunner Donald Trump praised an endorsement he received from former heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson.
“Mike Tyson endorsed me,” Trump told the crowd. “I love it. He sent out a tweet. Mike. Iron Mike. You know, all the tough guys endorse me. I like that, OK?”
“When I get endorsed by the tough guys, I like it,” Trump said.
Even though at least one news organization has been unable to verify the Tyson tweet, Trump’s embrace of an endorsement from Mike Tyson while campaigning in Indiana is strange.
In 1992, Tyson was convicted in Indiana of raping Miss Black America contestant Desiree Washington in an Indianapolis hotel room. Tyson served 3 years of a 6-year prison term.
Trump’s praise of Tyson drew a powerful rebuke Thursday from popular talk radio host Greg Garrison on his daily “Garrison” show on Indianapolis’ WIBC.
“Well, Mr. Trump,” Garrison began his segment. “Tough is one thing. A serial rapist is quite something else.”
Garrison was the lead prosecutor in the Tyson rape trial. In his show’s opening monologue, which is included in this post, Garrison related how Tyson “brutally, horribly raped” the 17-year old high school student. “Tore her clothes. Tore her body. Destroyed her life,” Garrison said.
In the aftermath of the rape, Ms. Washington was forced to change her name. Her parents ultimately divorced over the pressures resulting from the rape and the trial. One reason Ms. Washington had said he felt she could trust Tyson was that her father and brother were big fans of the boxer.
Tyson was released from prison in 1995. “It’s not 6 months [after he gets out of prison] ’til he rapes another woman,” Garrison continues. “I know. I knew her. I represented her.”
Tyson never faced criminal charges for this second rape allegation.
Garrison has remained neutral in the Republican primary. His criticism of Trump isn’t about resting the mantle of Tyson’s sins on the frontrunner. Rather, Trump’s praise of Tyson, especially in the city where the rape took place, raises questions, for Garrison at least, about the frontrunner’s judgement.
“So, what does that mean about Mr. Trump,” Garrison asks. “I’m not going to heave him off the side of the ship. But, the more I see of “ready, fire, aim” the more it worries me. The leader of the free world needs to be rid of that kind of stuff.”
“Things cavalierly fly off the top of his head and I have to wonder,” Garrison says. “Is that person a good Commander-in-Chief. The leader of the free world.”
While the questions raised by Garrison go far above the level of political considerations, there is a certain recklessness often with Trump’s remarks, especially as it relates to women. Garrison notes that at the time of the rape trial, Trump defended Tyson against the allegations.
“Its my opinion, to a large extent, that Mike Tyson was railroaded in this case,” Trump says in a clip from 1992 included in Garrison’s monologue.
At the same Indianapolis rally, Trump shared the stage with Indiana basketball legend Bobby Knight. The coach was fired by Indiana University for allegedly mistreating a student. Knight, however, also got in trouble for saying in an interview with NBC News that “if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.”
“Cavalier” best describes a Trump attribute that worries many Republicans about his prospects in a general election. Bobby Knight obviously has a legacy far greater than one bad quote years ago. Praising Mike Tyson in the state where he committed rape is more a case of very bad advance preparation on the Trump campaign’s part, rather an endorsement of the boxer’s behavior.
The political optics of all of those things happening at the same time are problematic. As Garrison notes, in his autobiography, Tyson notes that the “best punch” he ever threw was the one that knocked out his wife at the time, Robin Givens.
Bragging about beating your wife is not what most people would consider the actions of a “tough guy.” If he aspires to be President, Donald Trump needs to show that he very much understands the difference.