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Epstein Mysteries: Why Did Vanity Fair Sit On Allegations Against Epstein For 17 Years?

(Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)

Shelby Talcott Senior White House Correspondent
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Seventeen years ago in March 2003, Vanity Fair published a lengthy article all about “The Talented Mr. Epstein.”

Not included in that article were accusations of sexual misconduct involving minors … a story that would hit the press in 2019 when Jeffrey Epstein was arrested on charges of sex trafficking. Did Vanity Fair’s article intentionally exclude these allegations?

Vanity Fair journalist levies allegations against the magazine

One former Vanity Fair journalist says that is the case. Days after Epstein’s arrested, Vicky Ward accused her editor at Vanity Fair – Graydon Carter – of declining to run with three on-the-record allegations from women against Epstein. (RELATED: Former Vanity Fair Reporter Accuses Editor Of Covering Up Evidence Against Epstein)

“In 2002, I was assigned to write a profile of Jeffrey Epstein for Vanity Fair. This was that piece. But what was published was far from the whole story,” Ward tweeted in July 2019. “I uncovered many concrete, irrefutable examples of strange business practices and it soon became quite clear: Jeffrey Epstein was most certainly not who and what he claimed to be.”

When confronting Carter about excluding the accusations, the former Vanity Fair writer has alleged he responded that Epstein was “sensitive about the young woman.” Ward repeated this claim during an interview for Netflix’s “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich” docuseries. Carter has denied making that comment.

“I tried to expose Jeffrey Epstein for what he is and I was silenced. Everyone who knew about Epstein was—silenced by people with more money and power and influence. Now that silence is over. It’s time for the truth to see the light,” Ward added after noting how powerful Epstein was.

Vanity Fair’s 2003 article ended up focusing on Epstein’s “high-flying style” and business dealings. The article included no reference to any of the three women Ward says she spoke with. Following publication, Ward said the women would no longer go on-the-record for a future story, the NYT reported.

“They felt this was exactly what they feared would happen — that they wouldn’t be believed,” Ward said.

A second former Vanity Fair worker remembers Epstein pressuring the editor

Ward is not the only person to suggest Carter spiked the women from the 2003 article because of Epstein. Former Vanity Fair contributing editor John Connolly detailed pressure from Epstein as the article’s publication neared, NPR reported in 2019.

“He was torturing Graydon,” Connolly said of Epstein, who allegedly “materialized at the magazine’s offices … to press Carter not to devote any attention to Epstein’s apparent interest in very young women,” according to NPR.

“Epstein beseeched Carter and berated him, Connolly says, that morning and subsequently, in a flood of phone calls. Epstein denied to Carter any misconduct and wanted him to steer away from the subject,” NPR reported.

Carter also allegedly received a bullet outside of his home shortly after the article was published, according to Connolly, who does not believe it was “a coincidence.” The duo both saw the bullet as “a clear warning from Epstein,” NPR reported.

A spokeswoman for Carter told NPR that he remembered the bullet arriving at his home in 2004 and not 2003, when the story was published.

In this handout provided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Jeffrey Epstein poses for a sex offender mugshot after being charged with procuring a minor for prostitution on July 25, 2013 in Florida. (Florida Department of Law Enforcement via Getty Images)

In this handout provided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Jeffrey Epstein poses for a sex offender mugshot after being charged with procuring a minor for prostitution on July 25, 2013 in Florida. (Florida Department of Law Enforcement via Getty Images)

Carter has repeatedly denied Ward’s allegations

Carter has denied the accusations that Vanity Fair buried this part of the story, the NYT reported.

“I respected the work Vicky Ward did at Vanity Fair, but unfortunately her recounting of the facts around the Epstein article is inaccurate,” Carter, who stepped down as editor of Vanity Fair in 2017, said in a statement to The New York Times. “There were not three sources on the record, and therefore this aspect of the story did not meet our legal and editorial standards.”

“If we had had three people on the record willing to stand up for us in court if Epstein had chosen to sue, we would have run it. Period. End of story.”

However, 2019 is not the first time Ward has raised these accusations. She made the same claim in 2015, Politico reported. In response, a Vanity Fair spokesperson responded by pointing out that “Epstein denied the charges at the time.” The spokesperson added that the allegations “were unsubstantiated and no criminal investigation had been initiated,” Politico reported.

Vanity Fair and Carter have not completely denied Ward’s claims. While Carter has said her “recounting of the facts” are “inaccurate” because she did not have “three sources on the record,” his statement does not explicitly say she had no sources levying allegations against Epstein.

If Ward did have three on-the-record interviews with women accusing Epstein of sexual misconduct – or even one – it remains unclear why Vanity Fair did not appear to continue pursuing the story in the 17 years since publication. These 17 years even saw Epstein arrested and jailed for a short time in Florida for procuring a minor for prostitution in 2008.

Two of the alleged victims have since gone on the record to say they spoke with Ward

Two of the females who Ward says she spoke with have since given on-the-record statements backing up the former Vanity Fair writer’s claims, NPR reported. Maria and Annie Farmer, as well as their mother Janice Farmer, all told NPR that they spoke in interviews with Ward.

“We decided to share our story about Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell with a writer for Vanity Fair in 2002 because telling other people what happened to us, as we had already done, did not lead to either of them being held accountable,” they wrote in a statement to NPR. “We spoke on the record. Our mother spoke on the record.”

“It was terribly painful. We hoped the story would put people on notice and they would be stopped from abusing other young girls and young women. That didn’t happen. In the end, the story that ran erased our voices.”