What People Are Getting Wrong This Week: Jeffrey Epstein


On a recent appearance on ESPN’s The Pat McAfee Show, washed-up NFL quarterback Aaron Rodger suggested that late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel’s name will show up in connection with notorious pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

“There’s a lot of people, including Jimmy Kimmel, who are really hoping [the list of names a court is unsealing] doesn’t come out,” Rodger, a dumb person, said. “If that list comes out, [I] definitely will be popping some sort of bottle.”

There was no bottle popping at the Rodger’s house. The names were released, and “Kimmel” was not one of them. Not that it matters to the Aaron Rodgers of the world. They can say “Well, that isn’t the real list anyway,” or “of course his name isn’t on the list. Disney covered it up,” and go on with their day, secure in the knowledge that eventually it will come out that Jeffrey Epstein’s friends were all Democrats, Donald Trump was not involved, and Kamala Harris was there too.

Dunking on Aaron Rodgers is easy, but the first Epstein conspiracy theory wasn’t (only) a right-wing fever dream. It was/is widely believed by people across the political spectrum.

“Epstein didn’t kill himself”

When the news dropped in 2019 that Jeffrey Epstein had committed suicide in his cell at a Manhattan jail, “Epstein didn’t kill himself” became a meme immediately, and was spread by everyone from Joe Rogan to Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar, to Ricky Gervais, to everyone you follow on Twitter. The sentence was repeated so often that it largely seems to have been accepted as truth, but when you really look at it, “Epstein was murdered” is just as dumb as any other conspiracy theory.

Epstein, the story goes, was offed by a powerful person who didn’t want their secrets revealed. (You can insert any rich person you don’t like here: Maybe George Soros ordered the hit. Or it could have been Donald Trump.) Something about that feels so true, and so exciting, that people seem to have ignored the sordid, boring reality: prisoners kill themselves in jail all the time because jails are terrible places, especially for pedophiles and billionaires.

While you can’t prove a negative, the overwhelming evidence suggests that Epstein killed himself. There’s the autopsy results that show he hanged himself, the fact that Epstein had tried to kill himself weeks before he succeeded (so he clearly wanted out), and his psych report. But most importantly, there’s common sense. Murdering a high-profile person inside a jail and then successfully covering it up is something that only happens in the movies. There are just too many moving pieces. Too many people would have to be bribed to look the other way. Too many things would have to be hidden from too many reporters. Too many things would have to have gone too perfectly.

Like all conspiracy theories, “Epstein was murdered” relies on cherry-picking tiny pieces of information and focusing on anomalies and coincidences (“the guards didn’t check on him!” “the cameras weren’t working right!”) that could support an already-arrived-at conclusion, while handwaving away huge pieces of evidence that point to a different, simpler explanation. Evidence like the actual autopsy, the police report, and the prison’s own investigation. Epstein’s proximity to actual billionaires and power brokers gives people an easy way to patch over parts of the story that don’t work. “Well, they’re rich guys, so they can afford to hire ninjas who can break into an overcrowded jail without being seen, enter a locked cell, commit a murder that looks exactly like a suicide, and get out without being spotted.”

Even if a rich person wanted to cover up their connection to Epstein, why would they assume he didn’t have photos or videos that would be released if he was killed (since we’re doing movie plots)? Why would they have waited until Epstein was in jail to take him out? Wouldn’t it have been easier during the months before he surrendered himself to authorities? Or before he was even suspected?

What would George Soros/Donald Trump really get out of Epstein being dead anyway? The possibility of an elaborate murder-for-hire plot being exposed seems way more damaging than the legal testimony of a notorious pedophile. Why wouldn’t Donald Soros just hire a good lawyer to say, “Your honor, this man is Jeffrey Epstein, so his testimony can be ignored.”

Actual conspiracies that aren’t theories

This isn’t to say that conspiracies didn’t happen here. There is credible evidence that at least one of the most powerful people on earth committed truly disgusting crimes with Epstein and tried to cover up their involvement. It sure looks like the federal authorities gave Epstein’s a light sentence when he was originally caught. Two U.S. presidents actually did have some association with the guy (although we don’t know what either of them actually did.) No doubt there is a lot that we don’t know because lawyers and other professionals are being paid a lot to make sure we never find out.

But that doesn’t mean we should just believe any old bullshit. The secrecy provided by Epstein’s wealthy friends and the overwhelming strangeness of the whole situation has created a Schrödinger’s Pedophile situation, where you can use the case to grind whatever axe you like and you’ll never be proven wrong. But you will end up looking like Aaron Rodgers, though, and who wants that?

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