In August of 2018 — a little under a year before Jeffrey Epstein allegedly killed himself in his cell at the Manhattan Correctional Facility, where he was being held on charges he had sexually trafficked minors — James B. Stewart of The New York Times had a meeting with the financier in a very different place on the isle Manhattan.
“He insisted that I meet him at his house, which I’d seen referred to as the largest single-family home in Manhattan. This seems plausible: I initially walked past the building, on East 71st Street, because it looked more like an embassy or museum than a private home,” Stewart wrote in a piece published Monday.
“Next to the imposing double doors was a polished brass plaque with the initials ‘J.E.’ and a bell. After I rang, the door was opened by a young woman, her blond hair pulled back in a chignon, who greeted me with what sounded like an Eastern European accent.
“I can’t say how old she was, but my guess would be late teens or perhaps 20. Given Mr. Epstein’s past, this struck me as far too close to the line. Why would Mr. Epstein want a reporter’s first impression to be that of a young woman opening his door?”
What’s surprising is that this is one of the least head-turning revelations made in Stewart’s article. We’re so used to stories of indeterminately young women orbiting Jeffrey Epstein that we’re hardly fazed when one more gets added to the pile.
Instead, Epstein produced plenty of other head-turners during his time with Stewart. The financier apparently spoke freely because the interview was conducted on the condition that none of it could be attributed to Epstein.
“I consider that condition to have lapsed with his death,” Stewart wrote.
And thus, we have stories of Epstein’s attitude toward sex with teenage girls, allusions to dirt on powerful individuals — including that of a sexual nature — and a bizarre offer to Stewart to act as his biographer.
The meeting was supposed to be about a rumor that Epstein was advising Tesla regarding Elon Musk’s ill-starred attempt to take the company private last year. The company denies Epstein had any such role and Epstein wasn’t a whole lot of help, although for different reasons. “He told me that he had good reason to be cryptic: Once it became public that he was advising the company, he’d have to stop doing so, because he was ‘radioactive,’” Stewart wrote. “He predicted that everyone at Tesla would deny talking to him or being his friend.”
The article was newsworthy for much different reasons, however.
So, as to the kompromat: “The overriding impression I took away from our roughly 90-minute conversation was that Mr. Epstein knew an astonishing number of rich, famous and powerful people, and had photos to prove it. He also claimed to know a great deal about these people, some of it potentially damaging or embarrassing, including details about their supposed sexual proclivities and recreational drug use,” Stewart wrote.
“So one of my first thoughts on hearing of Mr. Epstein’s suicide was that many prominent men and at least a few women must be breathing sighs of relief that whatever Mr. Epstein knew, he has taken it with him.”
Equally astonishing was Epstein’s explanation as to how he had gotten this “potentially damaging or embarrassing” material. At least to hear him tell it, because of the fact that Epstein himself had been disgraced, others were willing to relate their disgraces to him — almost as if he were a parish priest taking confession.
Without engaging in speculation as to how he might have otherwise obtained this kompromat, let me just say that male members of the bovine species don’t produce this much feces in a calendar year. Think about this: Why would you tell your failings — failings of the potentially illegal sort — to the kind of guy who would casually mention them to a New York Times reporter? Please don’t tell me that these people didn’t know that Jeffrey Epstein could do something like that. They knew that — well, he was Jeffrey Epstein.
Then again, Stewart notes that confidentiality was part of the reason why “Mr. Epstein told me without any trace of irony … he was considering becoming a minister so that his acquaintances would be confident that their conversations would be kept confidential.”
And then there was Epstein’s, ahem, interesting thoughts regarding sexual relations with the younger set.
“If he was reticent about Tesla, [Epstein] was more at ease discussing his interest in young women. He said that criminalizing sex with teenage girls was a cultural aberration and that at times in history it was perfectly acceptable. He pointed out that homosexuality had long been considered a crime and was still punishable by death in some parts of the world,” Stewart wrote.
“Mr. Epstein then meandered into a discussion of other prominent names in technology circles. He said people in Silicon Valley had a reputation for being geeky workaholics, but that was far from the truth: They were hedonistic and regular users of recreational drugs. He said he’d witnessed prominent tech figures taking drugs and arranging for sex (Mr. Epstein stressed that he never drank or used drugs of any kind).”
It’s worth pointing out that Stewart thought that much of what Epstein said during their conversation was exaggerated, if not outright false. He points out that Epstein invited him to dinners with prominent figures — former Trump strategist Steve Bannon and author Michael Wolff among them. Stewart wrote that he declined invitations to both dinners he was invited to, and couldn’t establish whether they ever actually took place.
However, the talk about sex with underage women — in which Epstein more or less morally excused hebephilia — certainly doesn’t sound like it was exaggerated. It certainly fits with the image of a man who once told the New York Post about his sex offender status for pleading guilty to soliciting a 14-year-old girl for prostitution: “I’m not a sexual predator, I’m an ‘offender.’ It’s the difference between a murderer and a person who steals a bagel.”
Nor was he willing to look down upon those who’d had their own problems in the sex scandal department:
“Behind [Epstein] was a table covered with more photographs,” Stewart wrote when discussing Epstein’s Manhattan digs. “I noticed one of Mr. Epstein with former President Bill Clinton, and another of him with the director Woody Allen. Displaying photos of celebrities who had been caught up in sex scandals of their own also struck me as odd.”
As for whether he truly had dirt on the rich and powerful, well, the answers to that question may have died along with Epstein in a very different part of Manhattan, in a facility so spartan “El Chapo” called it “torture.” What’s interesting, along those lines, is that Stewart wrote that Epstein had once asked him to act as his biographer.
“Several months passed. Then early this year Mr. Epstein called to ask if I’d be interested in writing his biography. He sounded almost plaintive. I sensed that what he really wanted was companionship. As his biographer, I’d have no choice but to spend hours listening to his saga. Already leery of any further ties to him, I was relieved I could say that I was already busy with another book,” he wrote.
“That was the last I heard from him. After his arrest and suicide, I’m left to wonder: What might he have told me?”
There’s another question left unasked, however: After Epstein’s arrest and suicide, what else might we be told?
I doubt Stewart was the only reporter — or other person in a privileged position — who had conversations with or information about Epstein or his co-conspirators who weren’t at liberty to reveal what had transpired. For some of them, their reasons to keep quiet, much like Stewart’s, have “lapsed with [Epstein’s] death.”
Epstein may have indeed taken that information with him. If Monday’s Times article was any indication, however, he’d passed plenty of it on before he went to the grave.
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