In a new and provocative piece on Monday, reporter James Stewart recounted a meeting with the now-deceased sex offender and financier Jeffrey Epstein about a year before his death. Epstein claimed, Stewart reported, to “know a great deal” about powerful and famous people, “some of it potentially damaging or embarrassing, including details about their supposed sexual proclivities and recreational drug use.”
The meeting at Epstein’s house was off the record, Stewart said. Now that Epstein is dead, the reporter felt unbound by that confidentiality.
During our conversation, Mr. Epstein made no secret of his own scandalous past — he’d pleaded guilty to state charges of soliciting prostitution from underage girls and was a registered sex offender — and acknowledged to me that he was a pariah in polite society. At the same time, he seemed unapologetic. His very notoriety, he said, was what made so many people willing to confide in him. Everyone, he suggested, has secrets and, he added, compared with his own, they seemed innocuous. People confided in him without feeling awkward or embarrassed, he claimed.
Stewart said he arranged the meeting to discuss Elon Musk’s troubled position at Tesla. The company was facing a scandal over one of the founder’s tweets, and Musk was supposedly consulting with Epstein about the matter; Tesla denies this claim and Epstein reportedly offered no proof. Epstein also claimed, according to Stewart, that “he’d witnessed prominent tech figures taking drugs and arranging for sex.”
The report also suggested the Epstein has no remorse for his own crimes. Stewart noted that a young woman, potentially in her teens, answered the door when he arrived, and Epstein explicitly argued to him that “criminalizing sex with teenage girls was a cultural aberration and that at times in history it was perfectly acceptable.”
In another Section, Stewart recounted:
About a week after that interview, Mr. Epstein called and asked if I’d like to have dinner that Saturday with him and Woody Allen. I said I’d be out of town. A few weeks after that, he asked me to join him for dinner with the author Michael Wolff and Donald J. Trump’s former adviser, Steve Bannon. I declined. (I don’t know if these dinners actually happened. Mr. Bannon has said he didn’t attend. Mr. Wolff and a spokeswoman for Mr. Allen didn’t respond to requests for comment on Monday.)
Epstein died over the weekend, apparently by hanging, in federal custody while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. The U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman and Attorney General Bill Barr have both indicated since his death that the investigation into Epstein’s potential co-conspirators continues.
However, Epstein’s reported claim to have “dirt” on powerful people should be treated with some skepticism. Some of his accusers have fingered other prominent figures in the allegations, and he undeniably ran in powerful circles. But a recent New York Times report on Epstein’s interest in transhumanism and science suggested he had bizarre and potentially delusional beliefs and was prone to making grandiose assertions. Other reporting suggests that much of his supposed wealth — many reports had claimed he was a billionaire — may have been illusory. He is far from a reliable narrator of his own life.