Ava DuVernay is speaking out about the backlash surrounded her critically-acclaimed Netflix series, When They See Us, saying that it’s “important” that those responsible for botching the 1989 Central Park Five jogger case be held “accountable.”

Former prosecutor Linda Fairstein has been the main focus of the backlash from the series, which highlights the case’s botched investigation, framing five innocent Black boys for the rape of a white woman, Trisha Meili, jogging in New York City’s Central Park in April 1989. The backlash has forced Fairstein to shut down her social media accounts and resign from three non-profit boards. She was also recently dropped from her publisher and her Glamour magazine Woman of the Year award from 1993 was rescinded.

“I think that it’s important that people be held accountable,” DuVernay told Oprah Winfrey in a recent sit-down interview that will air this week on OWN and Netflix. “And that accountability is happening in a way today that it did not happen for the real men 30 years ago. But I think that it would be a tragedy if this story and the telling of it came down to one woman being punished for what she did because it’s not about her.”

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“She is part of a system that’s not broken, it was built to be this way,” she director continued. “It was built to oppress, it was built to control, it was built to shape our culture in a specific way that kept some people here and some people here. It was built for profit. It was built for political gain and power. And it is incumbent on us; it lives off us, our taxpayer dollars, our votes, the goods that we buy that are made inside of prisons. It lives off of our ignorance and we can no longer be ignorant.”

DuVernay added that her real goal is to change the prison industrial complex.

“Our real goal is to be able to say, ‘Go America. Let’s do this. Let’s change this.’ You can’t change what you don’t know, so we came together to show you what you may not know,” she explained. “Now that you know, what will you do? How will you change this? That’s our goal.”

After losing their innocence and spending six to 13 years in prison each for the crimes, a serial rapist confessed to the crime, freeing the young men and exonerating them. Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, and Kevin Richardson eventually received a $41 million settlement from the city of New York in 2014.

Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire

For her part, Fairstein has called the series a “basket of lies.”

“She’s behind it. Her lies are behind it all,” she accused of Duvernay, who revealed last week that Fairstein tried to negotiate her involvement on the series during the scriptwriting process.

When They See Us producer Jane Rosenthal added that Fairstein declined to participate in the series because she was “concerned” that the production had already consulted with the five men, Variety reports.

“Her point of view was clearly that she didn’t want us talking to the five men if we were talking to her,” Rosenthal added Sunday at the Produced By conference in Burbank, California.


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