Even though high-powered New York wealth manager Jeffrey Epstein was given a sweetheart plea deal that let him escape nearly all consequences for alleged child sex trafficking. Nonetheless, he was still required to register as a low-level sex offender, and rumors of his misdeeds have been circulating for years, long before he was arrested this month on new, much more serious charges.
So how, if that was the case, did he manage so successfully to integrate himself back into New York's most elite social circles for years? According to a new report by The New York Times, Epstein may have launched a PR blitz that planted positive stories about himself in the media to make the taint go away.
"In 2010, the year after he got out of a Florida prison, Katie Couric and George Stephanopoulos dined at his Manhattan mansion with a British royal," said the Times. "The next year, Mr. Epstein was photographed at a 'billionaire's dinner' attended by tech titans like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. A page popped up on Harvard University's website lauding his accomplishments, and superlative-filled news releases described his lofty ambitions as he dedicated $10 million to charitable causes. Powerful female friends served as social guarantors: Peggy Siegal, a gatekeeper for A-list events, included him in movie screenings, and Dr. Eva Andersson-Dubin, a champion of women's health, maintained a friendship that some felt gave him credibility. Mr. Epstein put up a website showing Stephen Hawking and other luminaries at a science gathering he had organized."
How did all of this happen? It appears that much of it was paid for by Epstein.
"Some of the respect Mr. Epstein, 66, drew on was manufactured, the accomplishments recycled," said the Times. "The gathering with Dr. Hawking had taken place back in 2006. The positive online notices appeared to have been paid for by Mr. Epstein: A writer employed by his foundation churned out the news releases, and the supposed author of a Forbes story calling Mr. Epstein 'one of the largest backers of cutting edge science' conceded in an interview that he was given $600 to post the pre-written article under his own name."
The connection with Harvard University was particularly interesting, because Epstein — for all his showering of the institution with money — never actually went there. He did, however, lean heavily on then-Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz for legal advice.