Wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein once called criminalizing sex with teen girls a “cultural aberration” in a disturbingly candid interview he gave just a year before his apparent prison suicide.
The disgraced hedge fund manager discussed his seemingly unapologetic views on underage girls in a 2018 interview with New York Times journalist James Stewart, who met with the multi-million in his lavish New York City townhome to talk "on background."
“He said that criminalizing sex with teenage girls was a cultural aberration and that at times in history it was perfectly acceptable,” Stewart wrote in the Times of the encounter. “He pointed out that homosexuality had long been considered a crime and was still punishable by death in some parts of the world.”
Epstein, who was found dead in a New York jail cell Saturday, didn’t shy away from his sordid past during the interview even acknowledging that after he was found guilty in Florida for soliciting prostitution from underage girls in 2008 he had become a societal “pariah.” But Epstein also claimed that his fall from grace had enabled other powerful people to feel open to confiding in him.
“Everyone, he suggested, has secrets and, he added, compared to his own, they seemed innocuous,” Stewart wrote. “People confided in him without feeling awkward or embarrassed, he claimed.”
His home was adorned with photos of Epstein with powerful world leaders including former President Bill Clinton, Mohammed bin Salman and Hollywood director Woody Allen. Epstein claimed that despite being a convicted sexual predator, many still sought his advice and came to dinner parties.
“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,” Stewart wrote. “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 was also struck by Epstein’s continued association with young women—and noted he was greeted at the door by a young, blonde woman who he estimated was in her late teens or early 20s. Stewart believed it seemed “far too close to the line” after Epstein’s earlier conviction.
Stewart had planned to meet with Epstein to discuss a possible role he had advising Tesla’s chief executive Elon Musk after Musk got into trouble announcing his plans to take Tesla private on Twitter.
Epstein claimed he had been advising Musk about the matter—a claim a spokeswoman for Musk vehemently denied.
“It is incorrect to say that Epstein ever advised Elon on anything,” she told The Times.
Epstein’s discussion with Stewart occurred “on background” meaning that anything said during the meeting could be used in Stewart’s reporting as long as he didn’t attribute it to Epstein. Stewart said he believed the conditions of their arrangement were no longer valid after Epstein’s death.
Epstein made large claims during their lengthy discussion—but Stewart has since questioned their accuracy.
“When I later reflected on our interview, I was struck by how little information Mr. Epstein had actually provided,” he wrote. “While I can’t say anything he said was an explicit lie, much of what he said was vague or speculative and couldn’t be proved or disproved.”
What Epstein did or didn’t know about other powerful men may have died with him. Epstein was discovered unresponsive Saturday morning in his jail cell with the bedsheet wrapped around his neck, according to The New York Post.
The hedge fund manager had been facing federal charges of sex trafficking after prosecutors claimed he had lured dozens of underage girls to his mansions in New York and Florida for sex between 2002 and 2005. Epstein also owned a private island in the Caribbean, where he allegedly abused teen girls.
The FBI and Justice Department are now investigating the circumstances surrounding his death, which sources have claimed was a suicide.
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