Central Park Five Prosecutor Resigns From Boards After Netflix Series Ignites Backlash
Ava DuVernay's miniseries 'When They See Us' prompted the hashtag #CancelLindaFairstein on social media following its release on Friday.
Former "Central Park Five" prosecutor Linda Fairstein has resigned from multiple boards after the release of Ava DuVernay's Netflix miniseries When They See Us, which has ignited new controversy over Fairstein's role in the case.
On Tuesday, Fairstein, who is now a novelist, resigned from the boards of the nonprofit Safe Horizon and Vassar College, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. She also has reportedly stepped down from the boards for God’s Love We Deliver and the Joyful Heart Foundation.
"I am told that Ms. Fairstein felt that, given the recent widespread debate over her role in the Central Park case, she believed that her continuing as a Board member would be harmful to Vassar," college president Elizabeth H. Bradley wrote Tuesday in an announcement.
When They See Us portrays Fairstein, played by Felicity Huffman, when she ran the sex-crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney's office. In 1989, the prosecutor oversaw the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of five teenagers of color after a white woman was assaulted while jogging in Central Park. In 2002, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana Jr. and Korey Wise were exonerated after serving seven to 13 years in prison when the real attacker confessed to the crime. The five filed a lawsuit against New York City in 2003.
After the four-part limited series was released Friday on Netflix, the hashtag #CancelLindaFairstein began trending on Twitter, with users calling for publishers to stop releasing Fairstein's books and booksellers to cease selling them. "In 1989 - I was 14. This movie has me so triggered. This could have happened to me and my friends and @LindaFairstein would have treated us the same. Everyone needs to see this movie and donate to @innocence project. #CancelLindaFairstein," one user wrote.
In a letter obtained by the New York Post to Safe Horizon, Fairstein wrote, “I do not want to become a lightning rod to inflict damage on this organization, because of those now attacking my record of fighting for social justice for more than 45 years.” She added that When They See Us “depicts me, in a fictionalized version of events, in a grossly and maliciously inaccurate manner.”
This isn't the first time Fairstein has faced backlash to her role in the case. Last year, after it was announced she was set to achieve a lifetime achievement award at the Edgars, an awards ceremony for mystery novelists, outcry prompted her honor to be rescinded.