NY Times columnist James B. Stewart had his first and only meeting with Jeffrey Epstein last August at the billionaire’s New York mansion. Stewart says Epstein agreed to the 90-minute interview on the grounds that the whole thing would be conducted “on background,” meaning any information Stewart gathered couldn’t be attributed to Epstein. But now that Epstein is dead, Stewart says he feels his obligation to keep the conversation semi-private has also expired.
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.
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.
Stewart doesn’t name all of the names but he does mention a few people Epstein had photos of hanging in his mansion:
He pointed to a full-length shot of a man in traditional Arab dress. “That’s M.B.S.,” he said, referring to Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. The crown prince had visited him many times, and they spoke often, Mr. Epstein said…
Behind him was a table covered with more photographs. 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.
Epstein also discussed his prior conviction for sex with underage girls and suggested his prosecution (such as it was) was comparable to laws against homosexuality, i.e. something that more enlightened cultures should not penalize. In fact, Stewart notes that when he knocked on the door, it was answered by a young woman with a European accent who appeared to be no older than twenty. So you get the impression that his first brush with the law hadn’t change Epstein very much. Perhaps that was because he was wealthy enough to feel he could buy his way out of any situation. After all, it worked the first time.
But you also have to wonder if part of the reason Epstein felt so unconflicted about his own past is that he knew he was far from alone. You have to wonder what stories he’d heard from his famous friends and perhaps even what he knew some of them had done with girls he provided to them. Personally, I wonder if he hadn’t had the same conversation about teen girls and homosexuality with Bill Clinton or Prince Andrew or Woody Allen.
Stewart reports that Epstein reached out to him several more times, inviting him to private dinner parties with Woody Allen and later Michael Wolff and Steve Bannon (a dinner Bannon says he never attended, Wolff and Allen didn’t respond to questions). The last time Epstein called was earlier this year when he asked if Stewart would be interested in writing his biography. Stewart passed but says he wonders what he might have heard about some of these powerful people if he’d said yes.
Maybe we’ll get answers when the Feds open up Epstein’s secret safe. Or maybe he found someone else to dictate his memoirs to in the months before his arrest. It would be a shame if all the people who participated in his illegal activities with him escaped justice because of his death.