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Who’s Worse: Jeffrey Epstein Or The Mainstream Media?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Palm Beach Sheriff's Office, File

The New York Times just published what’s known as an “on background” conversation between one of their business reporters, James B. Stewart, and the now dead billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.


“On background” is journalism speak for an interview subject leaking information to a media outlet and in exchange remaining anonymous in the story. You the viewer/reader won’t ever know the source of the information.

In 2019, it’s the media standard when you’re talking about Donald Trump. “Sources say, close associate says, a White House insider tells us, a close friend of the President says, a former employee says…” That’s “on background.” 

Personally, I think it’s shoddy and disgusting to build supposed “news” stories around people who aren’t willing to identify themselves when discussing political matters. Of course there are times anonymity is critical. 

It could mean saving lives or uncovering criminal activity. I understand whistleblowers and low-level employees fearing retribution or people who may endure physical harm or harassment by going public. That’s different. “On background” reporting makes sense in those cases.

But billionaire sex criminals and White House staffers trying to make trouble peddling idle gossip aren’t victims. Usually they’re opportunists who’re seeking fame or trying to ingratiate themselves to media types for attention when they find themselves on the outs of popularity.

Such was the case a year ago when the Times contacted Jeffrey Epstein for an interview. Business reporter James Stewart came across information Epstein had been counseling Elon Musk of Tesla through their widely publicized leadership and financial turmoil of 2018. (Musk denies the story, incidentally.)


This week’s published details of that on background conversation are making news, not because of Tesla or Musk In fact, it’s clear Epstein duped the reporter into the conversation more as a means to talk about himself and perhaps strike up a weird friendship with the reporter in the process.

It’s classic, actually. A famous criminal befriends a beat reporter and the reporter agonizes over the human frailty of the subject they’re interviewing. They strike up a long, strained friendship as the reporter tries to separate the misdeeds of the felon he’s befriended from the personal bond they share. I think I’ve seen at least six movies like it. 

What’s key about this interview with Epstein is it’s not quite a year old. In August of 2018, when Stewart reached out to Epstein, he was already a convicted sex offender, a well-known pedophile. Still, it didn’t stop influential media people in New York from continuing to fraternize with the guy. 

It’s reported George Stephanopoulos and Katie Couric were just two of many well-connected people who dined at Epstein’s home well after his child sex conviction.

Stop for a moment and ask yourself, “Would I do that? Would I call up and visit the home of a convicted pedophile on background for a business story? Would I attend dinner at a convicted pedophile’s home because he invited me, particularly if I am a wealthy, famous person myself?”


Mr. Stewart’s New York Times piece this week explains he learned nothing about Tesla from Epstein when he visited his home last year, but what he did learn and see was a lot of creepy stuff. The young woman with an Eastern European accent who greeted Stewart at the door he guessed was in her “late teens or perhaps 20.” Stewart added, “Given Mr. Epstein’s past, this struck me as far too close to the line.” 

Uhhhh, yeah. 

Stewart detailed the photos of notable people with Epstein prominently displayed throughout the home. People like Woody Allen and Bill Clinton. Again, Stewart said it “struck him as odd” displaying photos of celebrities who’d been caught up in their own sex scandals (with young girls).”

Uhhhh, yeah again. 

But the most cringe-worthy part of the published on background interview was Stewart’s recollection that Epstein didn’t really have anything meaningful to say about Tesla, rather he just seemed to want a buddy to riff with about sex with teen girls.

“If he was reticent about Tesla, he was more at ease discussing his interest in young women,” Stewart wrote. “He said that criminalizing sex with teenage girls was a cultural aberration and that at times in history it was perfectly acceptable. He pointed out that homosexuality had long been considered a crime and was still punishable by death in some parts of the world.”


Epstein was a sick but unashamed, unrepentant, and unapologetic figure until his death in a jail cell last week. Powerful media people knew it and hobnobbed with him anyway. Stewart sat on this story for a year.

But Stewart decided his 2018 on background agreement with Epstein would make a great piece in the New York Times this week because the rules of on background “had lapsed with his death.” Click bait, baby!

Time to stop and ask yourself another question: Would the New York Times sit on a story like this if we replaced Epstein’s name with Donald Trump? We all know the answer. 

One month before the 2016 election, someone (who’s never been identified) leaked raw footage and audio of a private conversation between Donald Trump and then “Access Hollywood” correspondent Billy Bush that never made air when originally recorded in 2005. It was cutting room floor material. It was lewd talk between two men never meant for public consumption, but mainstream media like the Washington Post and New York Times ran with it anyway.

That’s just an appetizer on a long menu of Oval Office meetings, phone conversations, tax forms, you name it, that media outlets like the New York Times publish with glee the second they can get their hands on it. No discussion of standards, or ethics, or background, or confidentiality, or privacy. Just, “Give us the dirt on Trump!”


But when it comes to figures like Epstein – a child rapist – the New York Times let us know how important it was to them they maintain his dignity and their credibility until he was dead.

Bottom line, the New York Times and their media brethren believe a convicted pedophile who continued leading a flagrantly creepy lifestyle was due more dignity, protection, and respect than a duly elected President of the United States. They’ll happily dine with Epstein while they blindly hate on Trump, which ultimately places Jeffery Epstein a notch above most American news media. At least Epstein provided a public service in the end. 

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