Editor's note: Jeffrey Epstein was arrested in New York on July 6, 2019, and faced federal charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. On August 10, 2019, he died in an apparent jailhouse suicide. For more information, see The Daily Beast's reporting here.
To most of the world, billionaire Jeffrey Epstein is a convicted sex offender and a financial grifter. But in his little online world, he’s a walking messiah. A superman in a suit.
According to one of his websites, JeffreyEpsteinInternational.com, Epstein is a Middle East “armistice activist” who formed the International Peace Institute in Bahrain. According to JeffreyEpsteinuUSVI.com, he prevented orphanages from folding and used his riches to build schools in poverty-stricken areas in the Virgin Islands (where he also founded the region’s first student-run radio station).
Epstein has forced ivory poachers in China to disarm, shelled out money to help cure breast cancer with 3-D screening innovations, and vowed to fight HIV, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
And Epstein continues to steer money toward universities to advance scientific research.
Who is this angel of a man? Punch “Jeffrey Epstein” into Google and it’s easy overlook the fact that this 62-year-old altruist was also convicted of soliciting prostitution with a minor.
After serving out 13 of his 18-month jail sentence, Epstein’s back in the spotlight for a long run of allegedly pimping out underage girls to boldface power brokers with whom he palled around for decades.
Names of Epstein’s cronies—which include his old chum Prince Andrew, fifth in line for the British throne, and lawyer Alan Dershowitz—are facing accusations of participating in Epstein’s unlawful teenage romps from since 2005.
The damning claims continue to follow Epstein; most recently, one woman came forward and said that she was only 17 (below the age of consent in Florida) when Epstein bedded her and gifted her away to play sex servant to the randy royal Prince Andrew.
Palace spokesmen defended the Duke of York and noted that “any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors is categorically untrue."
Online, Epstein is crafting a whole different reality. The lascivious sex predator is out; the deep-pocketed caped crusader is most definitely in. Epstein’s managed to write an incredible second act that involves ingratiating himself with some of the most brilliant minds in the universe.
His Facebook page and his personal websites are filled with photos of Epstein mugging with Stephen Hawking, fractal geometry inventor Benoit Mandelbrot, and artificial-intelligence guru Marvin Minsky, to name a few.
Another big scientific brain featured on Epstein’s feeds: acclaimed theoretical physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss, who counts himself as one of Epstein’s close friends.
Krauss confirmed that he’d spoken with Epstein as recently as this week. Despite the hullabaloo over his role in the underage sex scandal, Epstein showed no signs in their conversations of being shaken by the negative attention.
“We talked about the science the whole time the other day,” Krauss told The Daily Beast in a phone interview.
Their friendship began when Krauss, who was chairman of the physics department at Case Western in Cleveland, sought out Epstein.
“I heard Jeffrey was interested in supporting science and I contacted him,” Krauss said.
Not long after, Epstein arranged for Krauss and a handpicked set of his fellow geniuses to come for a retreat at Epstein’s home on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas.
“It was Stephen Hawking and five other Nobel laureates,” Krauss recalled.
The St. Thomas gathering happened around 2005, according to Krauss. Separately, that’s also around the same time that Epstein was facing the first of many public accusers.
But Krauss said that from the moment he and the other scientists arrived on the island, they never saw anything untoward.
“Jeffrey had his girlfriend there and there were beautiful women, too. But none of them were underage,” Krauss recalled.
Before the jaunt to the Caribbean, Krauss admitted he’d done a little research and “read all about” the wealthy businessman’s extracurriculars of “happening to like beautiful, young women.”
“It’s not my taste. But I don’t condemn people for their taste,” Krauss added. “Everybody has their quirks and quarks.”
Their three-day scientific outing was paid for by Epstein and was big success.
“I found him to to be an interesting person,” Krauss said of the first impression. “When we had that meeting in the Caribbean, Jeffrey was holding his own and not only was he a pleasant host, he was pleasant guy.”
The two strengthened ties over the years and now Krauss considers Epstein a “close” and “considerate” friend.
“As a friend, he’s been a kind supporter generally interested in my well-being.”
The scandal’s reboot has nonetheless unleashed lurid details from criminal court papers and civil lawsuits (some dismissed) from various jurisdictions. Together, they serve as a massive cinderblock—sinking almost anyone who shook Epstein’s hand.
In the meantime, Epstein has tried to use his charitable projects to float him back to the top. Since 2000, when he established the Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation, he’s burned through millions of dollars to fund scientific and educational causes.
That’s created a binary world where there are essentially two Jeffrey Epsteins.
There’s Jeffrey Epstein, the swell guy who’s trying to better mankind and gracing academic circles as a deep-pocketed, do-good intellectual.
And the pervy pimp Jeffrey Epstein, who purportedly lurked around like a fox in the Palm Beach hen house, fixing his horndog politicos with any one of his harem of pubescent girls.
The effort to sterilize his image first began when Epstein hired Los Angeles-based spin doctors Sitrick & Co.
The Daily Beast reached out to the firm, which is known to be the equivalent of Harvey Keitel’s tuxedo-wearing “Wolf” character in Pulp Fiction; basically a one-man cavalry who is called in as a last resort to fix impossible messes.
Reached Tuesday, a Sitrick & Co. rep confirmed they parted ways with Epstein in April 2011.
Epstein allegedly stiffed them for a bill of over $100,000.
Perhaps on his own nowadays, Epstein is trying his best to webmaster over a dozen URLs.
Each plays off his namesake and likeness.
The sites are fraught with bad jump pages and bear almost the exact gray-on-black color schemes only to drive home the same universal axiom: Epstein is everywhere and saving the day.
On Epstein’s Google Plus account on Monday, there appeared a post with a bunk link to Jeffrey Epstein’s vast URLs—one, JeffreyEpsteinForum, was accompanied with note that read: “This is a test.”
At 1:42 a.m., a commenter bluntly asked: “Jeff, Is it true you are a convicted sex offender?”
The post was deleted shortly thereafter.
But it’s this kind of moment where the two worlds collide—Epstein’s felonious past mixes with his philanthropic present.
On Twitter, Epstein has favorited only five tweets, including one from January 2013 crediting himself with another of his beyond-human feats:
“Jeffrey Epstein, Science Financier, supports the growth of artificial intelligence in digital content”
And out of the 46 Twitter accounts Epstein follows from @disasterfutures to @ColumbiaDental—they’re all science (not scandal) based.
Pretty innocuous stuff—until you land on Epstein’s YouTube account.
The first two videos are teasers featuring two favorite cartoon characters for young girls, Dora the Explorer and Tinkerbell. Dora is seen getting dressed as a mermaid by a cursor being manned by some omniscient game player. The teasing video of the famous fairy Tinkerbell begins as a close-up as a little girl and then growing up and getting into mischief.
On their own the kids’-themed videos wouldn’t draw flags. But when a serial sex predator is playing fanboy, the gag reflex kicks in.
These two videos rest atop bookmarked links to The Jeffrey Epstein Foundation.
But the cosmologist Krauss remains steadfast in his support, citing Epstein’s “fascination and intelligence” as well as “his kindness and generosity.”
“He’s a great philanthropist,” Krauss added. “He told me once that he’s less impressed with making money than he is in exploring ideas.”
And while Epstein’s behind-the-scenes PR machine churns out a superhuman pace of good deeds, Krauss contests that his friend is humble as they come.
“He doesn’t do any of this to get attention.”