Convicted pedophile: Fake news and risky accusations: Why right-wing circles are exploiting the Epstein files

The “Epstein List” has been eagerly awaited for weeks.

Convicted pedophile: Fake news and risky accusations: Why right-wing circles are exploiting the Epstein files

The “Epstein List” has been eagerly awaited for weeks. Shortly before Christmas, the responsible judge, Loretta Preska, ordered the publication of previously sealed court files for January. Since then, there has been a flood of misinformation and dangerous accusations, especially on X, formerly Twitter.

The term “Epstein list” is misleading. In numerous postings and videos, amateur lawyers and amateur journalists commented on the legal process and suggested that the documents were a list of people's names. That's wrong. The recently published documents are witness interviews and other legal documents from a civil dispute (2015) between the American Virginia Giuffre and Epstein's long-time partner Ghislaine Maxwell, which were previously encrypted. A mention in the documents does not mean that the person in question was an active part of the alleged abuse network around Epstein, but initially only that his or her name was mentioned in the civil lawsuit. Some of them - including Leonardo Di Caprio and Cate Blanchett - were only mentioned because, according to witnesses, Jeffrey Epstein boasted that he knew celebrities.

This is not a list of names of people who were guests of Epstein. However, you could easily believe that if you just take a quick look at the short message service X. Even before the files were published, fake lists were shared there with names of celebrities who were allegedly involved with Epstein. Alec Baldwin, Angelina Jolie, Barack Obama and Beyoncé are just a few examples. Jimmy Kimmel was forced to clarify in a tweet earlier this week that he neither knew Epstein nor was he visiting on his private jet. Shortly before, football player Aaron Rodgers - known for his penchant for conspiracy theories - had claimed that Kimmel was one of Epstein's friends. In fact, none of those mentioned appear in the documents. What unites them, however, is their political direction; they are either Democrats or have supported the party in the past.

And so it becomes clear where much of the fake news that is shared in the wake of the Epstein files comes from. Even four years after Epstein's death in a New York prison, Trump fans and ultra-right believe he was part of a vast Democratic conspiracy. Even Republican candidates like Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene have claimed in the past that Democrats are pedophiles. A "party of pedophiles," Greene called her competition in 2022. "The Democrats - even Joe Biden, the president himself - support the sexualization of children and the performance of transgender surgeries," she claimed last April on "CBS News on Sunday".

The fact that the convicted pedophile Epstein liked to surround himself with high-ranking politicians comes as a surprise. In fact, the entrepreneur, who died in 2019, not only donated a lot of money to Democratic politicians during his lifetime, but also to Republicans. The two most famous politicians on both sides who associated with Epstein are Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. Both were guests on Epstein's private jet, the so-called "Lolita Express". "He's a lot of fun to be with," Trump said in a 2002 interview with New York Magazine. "It's even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are younger." Then in 2019, Trump claimed that he had not had contact with Epstein in years and that he was "not a fan" of him.

In 2019, Clinton also distanced herself from Epstein. "President Clinton knows nothing about the horrific crimes to which Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty several years ago in Florida, or to those with which he was recently charged in New York," his spokesman said at the time.

The names of both men appear in the just-released court documents. Clinton is there more than 70 times, Trump only four times. Reason enough for Trump supporters to absolve the former president of any guilt. Benny Johnson, who was fired from his journalistic work at Buzzfeed for plagiarism and has been ranting online for some time, posted that the documents would “acquit Trump of any wrongdoing.” He is referring to the testimony of Johanna Sjöberg, who says that Trump never asked her for a massage or demanded sexual acts. One of the excerpts that Johnson shared does not come from the recently published documents but is an excerpt that was published in 2019.

The debate about Epstein has now become a battle of images. Many of them are fake. A photo showing Vice President Kamala Harris alongside Epstein is a montage. In the real photo, Harris poses next to her husband Doug Emhoff. A fake image of Biden and Epstein was created in the same way. A vacation photo of the Obamas in Hawaii was edited to look like they were on Epstein's private island. Just three of many examples.

For those who have already looked into the allegations against Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in more detail, the decrypted documents come as little surprise. They create an impression of the world of Jeffrey Epstein and his criminal activities. What's more, they provide a glimpse into the illustrious company that Epstein boasted. How he bragged about prominent acquaintances and which high-ranking people he liked to surround himself with. The descriptions contained in the files - especially those of Bill Clinton - are not very flattering. But they in no way confirm the conspiracy that right-wing commentators and Trump fans have believed in for years.

Source: Court documents Epstein/Maxwell/Giuffre / "USA Today" / X / "Independent" / "New York Magazine"

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