The Epstein Effect: The Scandal That Will Never Go Away
Since 2006 when multi-millionaire Jeffrey Epstein faced his first criminal charges, he has taken over the news. The public eye has grown accustomed to seeing him in headlines and on front covers. However, since his alleged suicide in 2019, the public’s captivation with him has decreased significantly alongside news coverage of his criminal enterprise.1Emily Shiffer, “What Is Jeffrey Epstein’s Net Worth? Everything to Know about How the Financier Got Rich and Epstein Island,” Women’s Health, last modified July 13, 2022, accessed March 16, 2023, https://www.womenshealthmag.com/life/a40600008/jeffrey-epstein-net-worth/. While the media’s obsession with Epstein has quelled, it is imperative that the world not forget about his crimes.
Jeffrey Epstein was the epitome of a corrupt person in a position of power. Those who met him would quickly come to trust him due to his charm, smarts, and wealth; many people described him as “attractive” and “undeniably charismatic.”2Jesse Kornbluth, “I Was a Friend of Jeffrey Epstein; Here’s What I Know,” Salon, last modified July 9, 2019, accessed March 16, 2023, https://www.salon.com/2019/07/09/i-was-a-friend-of-jeffrey-epstein-heres-what-i-know/; James B. Stewart, “The Day Jeffrey Epstein Told Me He Had Dirt on Powerful People,” The New York Times, last modified August 12, 2019, accessed March 16, 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/12/business/jeffrey-epstein-interview.html; These characteristics are in part why he was able to build a criminal enterprise off of sex trafficking women, mainly minors. His social circle consisted of rich men who were in positions of power, many of whom would spend weekends on Epstein’s private island. This island was not a vacation spot, but rather a place where Epstein would circulate hundreds of girls, ranging from their late teens to as young as eleven years old. For years, Jeffrey Epstein got away with his horrific crimes virtually scot-free simply due to his presence in his elite social circle. His connections spanned from billionaire CEOs to politicians with global influence. Despite earlier convictions, such as in 2006 and 2008, Epstein remained a free man, a free man trafficking children at that.3Shiffer, “What Is Jeffrey,” Women’s Health.
Since his alleged suicide while awaiting trial in prison, Epstein’s story has fallen significantly out of the public eye. While news articles are still being released about him, the conversation around those articles has decreased to almost nothing. America as a whole seems to have become satisfied and complacent with a desultory sense of justice: Epstein died and the survivors’ voices were heard. That was enough for most people to move on to the next big controversy. However, the issue with this sentiment is that Epstein will always somehow be connected to future stories of the rampant corruption present in upper society. On March 13, it came to light that the investment banking service JPMorgan had violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Act by handling Epstein’s money in a way that facilitated Epstein’s illegal behavior.4Adam Klasfeld, “‘This Was a Quid Pro Quo’: Jeffrey Epstein Survivors Urge Judge to Green Light Suits against Big Banks, Explicitly Accuse Jes Staley,” Law & Crime, last modified March 13, 2023, accessed March 16, 2023, https://lawandcrime.com/jeffrey-epstein-2/this-was-a-quid-pro-quo-jeffrey-epstein-survivors-urge-judge-to-green-light-suits-against-big-banks-explicitly-accuse-jes-staley/. Despite condoning the exploitation of minors by turning a blind eye to Epstein’s sex-trafficking ring, JPMorgan was named the number one overall private bank in North America and held almost three trillion dollars in client assets.5JPMorgan, “Asset and Wealth Management,” J.P. Morgan, accessed March 16, 2023, https://www.jpmorgan.com/commercial-banking/solutions/asset-management. Prince Andrew, President Bill Clinton, Governor Andrew Cuomo, former owner of Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works Leslie Wexner, famous director Woody Allen, former owner of the New York Daily News and the Atlantic Mort Zuckerman, movie producer Harvey Weinstein, Stephen Hawking, as well as Former Harvard president and Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers alongside several other Harvard professors, frequented Epstein’s “pedophile island.”6Adam K. Raymond and Matt Stieb, “Jeffrey Epstein’s Rolodex: A Guide to His Famous Friends and Acquaintances,” Intelligencer, last modified July 10, 2019, accessed March 16, 2023, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/07/jeffrey-epsteins-rolodex-famous-friends-and-acquaintances.html. Bill Clinton was the leader of the United States for eight years, and Andrew Cuomo governed New York for ten. Hundreds of millions of people shopped at Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, funneling money into the pocket of a man who paid Epstein for child prostitution. Some of the most successful and popular movies many people were directed or produced by men who were raping young girls. Too many underage students were being taught by men who spent their weekends exploiting minors. Every subscription to the Atlantic and New York Daily News was indirectly funding trips to Epstein’s island. Donald Trump recently announced his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election three years after his first term. Yet, all of those men have undeniable connections to one of the most notorious pedophiles and sex traffickers known. The complacency and even participation of these powerful men in Epstein’s criminal enterprise proves that his corruption runs deep in the entirety of the United States and the rest of the world. No one can say that Jeffrey Epstein is “old news” when, in fact, the men to whom he sold young girls are still in power, are still rich, and are still free to do whatever they please.
Recently, Prince Andrew was said to have resisted King Charles’s wishes for him to move into Frogmore Cottage. Andrew’s annual allowance of almost $300,000 is also going to be cut in April. Andrew stepped back from his royal duties in 2019, following Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest. He was also stripped of his honorary military titles. Before her death in 2022, the queen also removed his honorary leadership of various charities, known as royal patronages, and barred him from using the title “his royal highness” in official settings. The council in the northern city of York voted unanimously to withdraw the prince’s “freedom of the city.” He is the first person to be stripped of this status. Local leaders have since argued that Andrew should also lose the title of Duke of York. While the charges against Prince Andrew for sexual abuse have been dropped due to a settlement reached with his accuser, his connections to Epstein still remain. Andrew spent many weekends on Epstein’s private island. While he wasn’t convicted, it is undeniable that he was with an underage girl and that girl was being trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein. Some even argued that Andrew’s accuser didn’t have the right to raise allegations due to a document she signed when she was 16 years old—the very document designed to protect Jeff Epstein in case any of the girls he was trafficking ever spoke out against him.7Lydia Spencer-Elliott, “Is This the Reason the Case against Prince Andrew Will Be Dropped?,” Grazia, last modified April 1, 2022, accessed April 4, 2023, https://graziadaily.co.uk/life/in-the-news/prince-andrew-trial-dropped/. Prince Andrew is a sort of figurehead of corruption. He was a man who had so much power that he was essentially above the law. There is a sense of irony in Prince Andrew being insulted by the “downgrade” to Frogmore, when in fact he is moving into a quite literal woodland mansion rather than being sentenced to prison for child molestation, perhaps for no other reason than his status as a member of the royal family. It is beyond me how an internationally famous man could essentially get away with such genuinely horrible crimes, besides his house only being ten bedrooms on a 33-acre piece of land and him no longer having “freedom of the city” in York. In all honesty, many people probably don’t even know, nor care, what significance that title holds. It is absurd that Prince Andrew’s punishment is for him to live in an estate that’s over 11,000 times bigger than the average jail cell.8Stephanie Nolasco and Ashley Papa, “Meghan Markle, Prince Harry’s Frogmore Cottage Eviction: Prince Andrew ‘insulted’ by New Move, Experts Say,” Fox News, last modified March 2, 2023, accessed March 16, 2023, https://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/meghan-markle-prince-harrys-frogmore-cottage-eviction-prince-andrew-insulted-new. Although Prince Andrew was able to avoid his trial, this only reveals more about a very flawed justice system, which by failing to push for a trial against Prince Andrew, also failed to help the victims of assault find a sense of safety and protection within society. The implications of this go beyond Prince Andrew by sending a message worldwide that courts are not taking sexual assault cases as seriously as they should be.
Human trafficking and sexual exploitation are often thought about as underground crimes. In reality, it is not underground at all. The people put into power are simply not who they seem. How can America claim to have a government representing everyday people, when those very politicians are untouchable men who are effectively above the law? The moment when Jeffrey Epstein becomes “old news,” we forget about the truth: without his clients, there would have been no crime. It just so happens that his clients were some of the most influential men in the world. Epstein’s story revealed that, currently, we live in a world that enforces the notion that the upper class can get away with anything and is immune to the law. While his name no longer makes headlines and his face is no longer on front covers, the names and faces of his client list will continue to be involved in controversies and scandals. We cannot be surprised when the next charming politician or charismatic billionaire is outed as a criminal, protected by our own votes and wallets.
Cover Image: “Little St James Island” by Navin75 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0