In an interview with the Daily Beast on a retrospective of his films, acclaimed documentarian Ken Burn spent the majority of his time discussing the candidacy of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and what it says about America.
Burns was promoting the SundanceNow Doc Club collection that will be showing a collection of his films and, as talk turned to the issues of race in the U.S., Trump’s over-the-top demagoguery naturally came up.
Discussing Burns’ film The Central Park Five — about five black teens who were wrongly convicted of assaulting a white woman in New York City — Burns recalled how Trump reacted at the time.
“He shamefully took out a full-page ad in all of the New York dailies asking for a restoration of the death penalty for two 14-year-old, two 15-year-old, and one 16-year-old innocent children,” Burns explained. “While New York State laws would not have permitted their execution, just the fact that there was a rush to judgment ought to be complete evidence of how temperamentally unsuited he is for the office he now seeks.”
After interviewer Marlow Stern noted that the teens were later exonerated and received a $41 million settlement from the city — which Trump criticized — Burns explained it was all about race.
“Of course it was [racially motivated]. I found no outrage at the ‘preppie killer,'” Burns said. “The problem was that the initial idea of the crime was that there were these ‘wilding’ black youths—a wolf pack—that attacked this innocent blond woman, and that’s always been the primal fear of Americans as they tolerated slavery and then tolerated Jim Crow.”
Burns then went off on Trump, calling him a “super-predator.”
“I find Donald Trump more of a super-predator. This idea that he can attack and attack and attack whole groups of people, and that we live in a media culture where that’s permitted to be tolerated—it’s the spectacle and not the truth of it,” he said. “An amoral internet permits a lie to travel around the world three times before the truth can get started, and we live in a place where lying is OK—where a lassitude develops where it doesn’t matter what the truth is—and that’s how it’s possible for someone like him to be advanced who is so clearly temperamentally unsuited and has no idea about governing.”
“The Republican Party has been extraordinarily successful at getting many groups of people to vote against their self-interest,” he continued. “Evangelicals are voting for Donald Trump. What part of Donald Trump reminds you of Jesus Christ? Trump lusts after his own daughter on national radio, talks about women’s bodies and breasts in such a disparaging way, and mocks them. How is this in any way Christian? When you make the ‘other’ the enemy, how is that Christian?”
Burns comments about Trump and his daughter Ivanka stem from remarks the New York businessman made in 2006 interview where he stated, “I don’t think Ivanka would do that [pose for nude photographs] inside the magazine [Playboy]. Although she does have a very nice figure. I’ve said that if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps, I would be dating her.”
The whole interview can be read here.