The media loves to cover stories of journalists being “targeted” or “harassed” by public figures, but a bizarre incident from 2006 should easily take the cake.
Graydon Carter, the former editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair, found a severed cat’s head on his lawn at the same time as one of his reporters was in Florida searching for details on federal accusations against financier Jeffrey Epstein, according to an NPR report.
Reporter John Connolly, seeking interviews with Epstein accusers, received a call from his editor letting him know about the gruesome discovery.
“It was done to intimidate,” Connolly said. “No question about it.”
The appearance of the cat head was not the first instance of Carter being targeted.
In fact, according to the NPR report, Vanity Fair’s editor had a history of interactions with Epstein.
Back in 2002, Carter assigned reporter Vicky Ward to investigate Epstein’s influence and connections. Ward’s task was to answer the question of who exactly Jeffrey Epstein was — and how he had managed to become so close to the likes of former President Bill Clinton.
Ward interviewed two sisters, Maria and Annie Farmer, who claimed to have been sexually assaulted by Epstein and his associate Ghislaine Maxwell. At the time of one of the alleged assaults, Annie Farmer was 15 years old.
Months later, in 2003, Carter arrived for work one morning to find Epstein in the offices of Vanity Fair.
According to Connolly, Epstein was paying Carter a visit in an attempt to convince the editor to amend Ward’s story.
The financier did not want Vanity Fair reporting on his interest in underage girls.
“He was torturing Graydon,” Connolly said, adding that Epstein called Carter repeatedly after their meeting, continuing to press his case.
While Vanity Fair eventually published Ward’s piece, the Farmers’ accusations were absent.
After publication, Carter phoned Connolly with disturbing news. A bullet had appeared outside the front door of his Manhattan home.
Connolly told NPR that he and his editor agreed: Epstein was to blame.
“That wasn’t a coincidence,” Connolly said.
Vanity Fair did not back away from its reporting due to any threats, Carter said in a statement to the New York Post.
“During my 25 years at Vanity Fair, we took the legal requirements for reporting incredibly seriously on every story, particularly pieces in which the subject was a private person and therefore rigorously protected by libel laws,” he said.
“And the fact remains that Ms. Ward’s reporting on this most important topic did not meet our legal threshold when we published the piece in 2003,” he continued.
“To suggest that either of these incidents affected my editorial judgment is flatly wrong.”
Regardless of whether Carter’s explanation holds up, the story remains alarming. No journalist deserves to come across a bullet, a severed cat’s head, or Jeffrey Epstein himself for running a story about an accused sex offender.
And if Epstein did indeed have enough influence to prevent a major magazine from publishing a damning article about him, NPR’s report should worry every American.
If alleged serial sex offenders like Epstein are to be exposed and society protected from their wickedness, victims must be able to share their stories confidently.
And the media must step up and report them.
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