By Hollie McKay
Published August 13, 2019
Maybe Jeffrey Epstein, 66, isn’t dead at all. Perhaps it was a body double left hanging by a bedsheet in the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) early Saturday, while the real Epstein headed back to his private “Pedophile Island.”
Or perhaps a former U.S. president and his wife – who once sought the top job herself – sought to silence potentially explosive testimony by ordering a hit.
Wait a minute, it was William Barr’s Department of Justice that took him off suicide watch, therefore President Trump must have had a hand in the death.
Are you crazy? It was the Russians!
Oh no, the reason he was able to evade justice for so long was that he was an FBI informant.
Wrong, so wrong. Epstein was a foreign intelligence agent. The Mossad.
The death of the disgraced multimillionaire in a New York federal prison has spawned a dizzying array of conspiracy theories.
“The case does have striking analogies to an episode on ‘Homeland,’ but the extent of the apparent irregularities here regarding his time in custody is, simply put, troubling,” Melissa Jampol, a former sex crimes assistant at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, told Fox News. “This case touches on many of the #MeToo themes that we have seen over the past few years, but also because it involves so many people with wealth and power, [that] makes it ripe for conspiracy theorists.”
Since Epstein’s apparent suicide early Saturday, the hashtags #Arkanicide to #TrumpBodyCount and #EpsteinMurder have exploded across social media.
But such conspiracies aren't just the province of fringe groups; the theories have been tweeted and retweeted -- chewed over and spit out -- by everyone from high-profile media personalities and Hollywood celebrities to top-tier politicians and even the U.S. president himself.
“You would be challenged to sell this story in Hollywood had it not happened. Everything about Jeffrey Epstein and his ability to manipulate successful businessmen, his ability to exercise long-term friends and slowly transfer wealth to his personal gain, shows that we have someone that has extreme narcissism,” Dr. Lisa Strohman, a clinical psychologist and founder of the Digital Citizen Academy, told Fox News. “This is an individual that was caught and convicted of sexually abusing young children and yet was allowed to continue to live his lifestyle among the rich and famous with no restrictions. He skillfully associated with the leaders to create a safety net to protect his continued behaviors.”
The Epstein conspiracy theories came in a torrent after his shocking death, though elements of the elaborate stories were hardly new. Well before his arrest in July, questions swirled about how he made his fortune, what big names were mixed in among his clients and associates, who took part in his debauched island adventures, and how exactly he was able to secure a sweetheart plea deal a decade ago.
“Epstein’s circle of high friends in high places crisscrossed the political spectrum, which is why for the first time in a while we seem to have bipartisan consensus as to one issue: something, in a ‘House of Cards’ sense, just doesn’t feel right,” said one criminal defense attorney, Phillip Hamilton. “The moral of the story is that in theory, no one should be above the law. But in practice too often, we as a society allow people like Epstein to elevate well above it.”
Epstein, a native of Coney Island, Brooklyn, and a college dropout, curated a life that saw him become a millionaire many times. He routinely rubbed shoulders with royalty, presidents, models and business big shots for decades.
True, he suffered a setback in 2008 following an FBI investigation in Florida that led to a single charge of soliciting sex from a minor. Nonetheless, his bank account and sway ensured he received a jaw-dropping plea deal that allowed him to check in and out of prison and protect other “co-conspirators” from future prosecution.
As is now common knowledge, though, his jet-setting existence came crashing down when his private plane touched down in New York in early July, and FBI agents arrested him on charges of operating a sex trafficking ring that had exploited dozens of minors. He allegedly tried to harm himself a couple of weeks ago, was taken off suicide watch, and, at the time of his death was reportedly not closely being monitored as he occupied a cell without a cellmate – another protocol violation.
Then he was dead.
“Conspiracy theorists will love this story. But in my opinion, Epstein felt there was no other option or way out of the situation,” asserted Doug Richard, a former federal prosecutor and civil litigator. “He believed suicide was the only way to control the outcome.”
Said Dan Gainor, the vice president for TechWatch, business and culture at the Media Research Center, Epstein’s “movie villain” persona and the house of horrors he continued to operate even after being convicted are the stuff of more than any routine Hollywood thriller.
“Super-rich, powerful, well-connected and evil,” Gainor said.
Gainor also pointed to the notion that the abundant conspiracies percolating around Epstein have a “real-world impact” when it comes to investigating such cases and possible co-conspirators.
“Look at the fear of vaccines – that is the danger of conspiracy coverage. But it’s impossible not to consider the idea of something odd in this case,” Gainor said. “The media and prosecutors need to be more curious following leads when powerful people are rumored to be doing truly hideous things.”
Others have a different view, saying the Epstein saga was just the latest illustration of what money can do.
“It exposed the abuses of power that those with money and influence are allowed to get away with. It shocked people because of the fact that someone could have been allowed to do all these horrible things and still be welcome in high-society is unbelievable to the average person,” said Ronn Torossian, crisis communications expert and CEO of New York-based 5WPR. “Though Jeffrey Epstein’s life has come to a tragic end, those who were tied to him during his life will have to do some serious damage control to untangle their reputations.”