When notorious pedophile and wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein died in a jail cell in 2019 while awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking minors, he left conspiracy theorists with a tangled web of lurid mysteries that would keep them busy for years to come. Suspicions that Epstein hadn’t really hanged himself soon gave way to claims of a vast coverup — the man supposedly murdered to prevent him from revealing the worst secrets of the global elite.
Now, four years later, far-right politicians and commentators are again fixated on Epstein’s personal connections, and using his vile reputation to push a variety of agendas — from trying to derail a congressional ethics probe to raising the temperature of Israel-Hamas war rhetoric.
Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn, for one, has led a weeks-long crusade demanding the release of flight logs from Epstein’s private jet, which is known to have welcomed many high-profile passengers aboard, including Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew. But the timing of this move is a little suspect: she called on the Senate Judiciary Committee to issue the Epstein subpoena last month as they moved toward authorizing subpoenas for real estate billionaire Harlan Crow and right-wing legal activist Leonard Leo as part of an ethics probe into conservative Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Blackburn has denounced that investigation. “The whole charade is truly disgusting,” she said in November. “You are going after a way to delegitimize the court as an institution.”
Since then, Blackburn has accused the committee chair, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, of blocking the subpoena — though a committee aide has said it was filibustering Republicans who did not allow for debate on the proposal last week. She also used her time during hearing testimony from FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday to ask if he would make the full flight logs public, and was apparently unsatisfied with his answer. A Fox News reporter confronted Durbin about the Epstein logs the same day, contributing to the right-wing narrative that he is actively suppressing their release. Blackburn has continued to hint that Democrats and the FBI are colluding in an effort to hide “the names of pedophiles” from the American people.
Tuesday night, Fox News host Jesse Watters ran with the story and added a new twist with his interview of presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., when he asked if the candidate had ever flown on Epstein’s plane himself. Kennedy admitted that he had, twice, in the early Nineties. (Previously, he had told Newsweek that he’d only flown with Epstein once.) While denying any criminal activity or visits to Epstein’s private island in the Caribbean, Kennedy, too, called for the flight logs — as well as “client lists” for the trafficking ring run by Epstein and convicted accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell — to be released.
Meanwhile, the ongoing bombardment of Gaza by Israel after the militant group Hamas launched a deadly attack against the country in October has resurrected a long-running but unproven theory about Epstein: that he acted as an agent of the Israeli government, or its intelligence agency, Mossad, gathering damaging information about a wide range of powerful individuals.
Here, too, the rhetoric has more to do with attacking political opponents than the disputed facts of Epstein’s life: among social media accounts currently focused on the war in the Middle East, some far-right commentators that have pivoted to pro-Palestine content are now using Epstein’s name as an antisemitic talking point. Angelo John Gage, a white nationalist tweeting as “Lucas Gage” and racking up followers while posting Hitler quotes, previously tweeted that Epstein “was a Jewish Mossad agent” and on Wednesday wrote that Epstein “was just following orders…from the Talmud,” a central text of Judaism. Failed senate candidate Sam Parker, who has recently alluded to the antisemitic conspiracy theory that a Rothschild banking dynasty controls the world, on Monday tweeted: “Have you ever noticed how so many pro-Israel accounts tweet outrage over the whole Epstein affair, but never talk about how Epstein worked for Israel?”
Other right-wingers amassing huge audiences by repeatedly denouncing Israel’s actions in Gaza who have played up Epstein’s links to the nation include pro-Russia MAGA influencer Jackson Hinkle, Andrew Tate supporters Sulaiman Ahmed and @CensoredMen (the latter absurdly claimed that Epstein was able to blackmail enough “American politicians, hedge fund managers and bank managers” to make the U.S. staunchly pro-Israel), and former UFC and MMA fighter Jake Shields. QAnon promoter Dom Lucre, best known for having his banned X (formerly Twitter) account reinstated by owner Elon Musk after posting images of child sexual abuse, even implied he’d been swatted for sharing a video from Russian media outlet RT alleging that Epstein worked for the Israeli government.
The notion that Epstein was some kind of spy, agent or asset is not totally far-fetched. Some who knew him have said as much. Ghislaine Maxwell’s father, Robert Maxwell, was also suspected of having ties to Mossad. And it’s well-established that Epstein had prominent friends and partners in Israel, including former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who headed an Israeli defense industry startup in which Epstein invested.
Yet whatever foreign influence campaign Epstein may have aided — and there is no proof he ever did — it’s hard to see what relevance it would have to the ongoing carnage in Gaza today. As Blackburn and Fox News make insinuations about unnamed people on Epstein’s flight logs to distract from a Supreme Court ethics inquiry, and social media clout-chasers invoke the convicted sex criminal as a proxy for Israel who inspires universal revulsion, more people are dragged down the conspiracist rabbit hole.