Although the interview will be remembered for the weirdness of its details—the pizza and the sweat—its true value lies elsewhere. It provided, through an apparently unaware narrator, a portrait of the whole toxic brew that fed the Epstein scandal and others like it. When historians try to understand the interplay of celebrity and sexual predation in the early 21st century, it will be as revealing a document as the recent books on Harvey Weinstein. Every abuser requires enablers. Every abuser requires silenced victims. Every abuser requires blind eyes.
These 45 minutes of television laid out the whole sorry dynamic. Take an aristocrat and offer him access to an exciting whirl of glittering people. Remember that he is used to, from birth, the constant presence of “staff,” so that he invisibly divides the world into his peers and those shadowy beings who fulfill his every whim. (“I don’t wish to appear grand, but there were a lot of people who were walking around Jeffrey Epstein’s house,” he told Maitlis. “I interacted with them, if you will, to say, ‘Good morning,’ ‘Good afternoon,’ but I didn’t [ask], ‘What are you doing here?’ ‘Why are you here?’ ‘What’s going on?’”) Then offer him the use of a house, a plane, an island, an implicit transaction of money for royal stardust. He is a trophy, rarer even than a stuffed lion, to show off to friends.
This is a world where houses are busy, as Andrew put it, like “a railway station”—run by staff, of course—and are much more convenient than staying in a hotel. A whole class of humans, just so much moving scenery, keeps the world turning. A stratified approach to humanity was evident throughout the interview. Repeatedly, Andrew missed opportunities to express sympathy for Epstein’s victims. (His PR adviser quit two weeks before the interview, after advising against it.) They didn’t seem to exist as vividly as he and his friends.