Why Mike Tyson has become an election issue for Trump

By David Weigel

Boxer Mike Tyson. Photo / Animal Planet
Boxer Mike Tyson. Photo / Animal Planet

Trusted Leadership PAC, one of the many groups backing Senator Ted Cruz's campaign for US president, has announced a six-figure online Indiana ad buy that exploits an issue Donald Trump actually introduced to the race.

In 30 seconds, the spot compares the backing of Cruz by Indiana Governor Mike Pence to the friendship between Trump and Tyson - which was tested when Tyson was convicted of rape in Indiana and Trump defended him.

Indiana holds its primary on Wednesday.

Tyson's rape case dates back to July 1991, when a Miss Black America contestant was attacked by the champion boxer in an Indianapolis hotel room.

After serving jail time and making a series of controversial comebacks in the sport, Tyson eventually built a new, goofball public persona.

He played a violent-yet-sensitive version of himself in the Hangover trilogy of blockbuster comedies; as of last year, he has lent his voice to Mike Tyson Mysteries, a throwback cartoon series in which he bumbles his way through adventures alongside a sex-crazed pigeon (voiced by Norm MacDonald) and the ghost of the Marquess of Queensberry.

Trump seemed to be invoking the new, tough-but-silly Tyson in Indianapolis last week. Not far from the site where Tyson was convicted of rape, he reminded voters that the boxer had endorsed him.

"I love it, he sent out a tweet," Trump said. "Mike. Iron Mike. You know, all the tough guys endorse me. I like that, Okay?"

Trump did not mention the context of the rape case, after which he said the boxer had been "railroaded" and suggested that the accuser had been exploitative.

Still, his out-of-nowhere comment rumbled through Indiana media. Greg Garrison, who had been the lead prosecutor on the Tyson case, told audiences of his radio talk show that Trump had made an inexplicable mistake.

"Did nobody in that whole entourage of yours know that that snake raped a lovely kid in this town?" Garrison asked. "I think I'd beef up my intelligence operation a little bit."

Carly Fiorina, Cruz's newly minted running-mate, took her own shot at Trump during a Friday news conference.

"Sorry, I don't consider a convicted rapist a tough guy," Fiorina told reporters. "And I think it says a lot about Donald Trump's campaign and his character that he is standing up and cheering for an endorsement by Mike Tyson."

The next day, Trusted Leadership PAC - which is not permitted to officially coordinate with the campaign - announced a US$375,000 ad buy, of which the Mike Tyson ad, "The Company You Keep," is part.

- Washington Post

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