Jeffrey Epstein's Case Reveals the Combination of Depraved Sex Abuse and Capitalism that allows the "suicide" of Jeffrey Epstein while his rich fellow abusers walk free. This is the last two parts of a series covering the case of Jeffrey Epstein.
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Transcript has been edited for clarity.
Hello, this is Dr. Harriet Fraad on Capitalism Hits Home, an interpersonal update. This is a show about the intersection of capitalism, class, and our personal lives. This is my third podcast on Jeffrey Epstein, and my final one, I would imagine. I should emphasize to you that everything that I say can be found on Google. They are statements from Ronan Farrow on The New Yorker, from The New York Times, from Barron's weekly, a financial weekly, from The Wall Street Journal, from Bloomberg News, from Vox, and other sources. So there's nothing here that was a radical disclosure from a radical rag or anything else that isn't part of the establishment's knowledge of Jeffrey Epstein.
Now first, a little summary: What were Jeffrey Epstein's crimes? Well, the first set of crimes for which he was apprehended were the sexual abuse of 36 girls, barely pubescent, and their enslavement. He intimidated and oppressed and enslaved them, and then gave them out to his wealthy friends. He received the lightest tap on the wrist for this. He got an 18-month sentence, commuted to only 13 months. And he spent his time in the Miami jail, leaving 12 hours a day to attend to his other business – which, according to the testimonies of the various dancers he raped, included raping other young women in his free time. That's a very light sentence for having sexually abused and enslaved 36 young women. Also, he was only on the Florida list of sex offenders. His sex offenses weren't recorded on a federal list. He got a lighter sentence than the average black kid who happens to be carrying a couple of joints, until very recently.
So, what enabled this man – who was born as a working-class kid, as I mentioned in a previous podcast – to expand his empire to $500 million, a half a billion, plus several estates and jets? What enabled him to do this? How could he do it? How could he get away with it? Well, the way our culture works, anyone who has enough money and a patina of education – or even without that, as Trump attests – can get away with almost everything, as long as he's clever enough to cover it up, as Epstein was.
A few of his very familiar powerful friends – and when we say "friends," I want to put that in quotation marks. His friendships were all mutual usages. It wasn't that they got to know each other, or were soul brothers. They each gave each other something that they wanted. Let's start with our current president, Donald Trump. Donald Trump described Epstein as "a terrific guy," "fun to be with." Epstein and he, together, judged a swimsuit contest. The events planner who brought the contest to Mar-a-Lago had no idea there were these two male judges only. Bill Clinton is another one. Trump also is recorded having raped the same girl as Epstein, and threatened her with death if she ever told. She had a lawsuit to that effect as a 13-year-old girl, how she was raped by both of these men, but it was withdrawn in 2016 after so many death threats she became terrified.
Bill Clinton was another one. He claimed he very rarely flew on Epstein's jet, the Lolita Express. And the flight logs that were subpoenaed – the flight logs going on the Lolita Express to "slave island," where one could rape young girls on the plane and when one landed – those have suddenly, somehow, just disappeared. And all of these rich and connected men have not been reported. Clinton said he only had a few flights, where he was accompanying Epstein for charity. Turned out he had at least 16. And since the flight logs are not revealed, we don't know how often he and other famous men flew to slave island on the jets.
Another one of the rich and famous, who I'll talk about a little later, is of the royal family (how moving). Prince Andrew flew on the Lolita Express quite often, and had appeared at various gatherings at Epstein's mansion. He owned the biggest mansion in New York City. He acquired it from his friend, in quotes, Wexner, who owned L Brands, Abercrombie and Fitch, then Bendel, The Limited, and many others, including Victoria's Secret. At any rate, he acquired it as a gift, and we know that gifts mean hidden money exchanges in that crowd, which gives each other such gifts and makes charitable donations in order to hide other monies back and forth. But Prince Andrew was a frequent flier. He says he was surprised and upset by his friend's sexual activities, but there are photos of him that were unearthed in a safe in Epstein's house in New York, his mansion in New York, which show Prince Andrew smiling with his hand on the breast of one barely pubescent girl and his other hand on a different girl's midriff. Looks kind of suspicious.
Another is Andrew – I'm sorry – Alan Dershowitz of Harvard: esteemed law professor emeritus, who intervened to keep the Pulitzer Prize from a woman who outed Jeffrey Epstein, Julie Brown. At any rate, one of Dershowitz's great initiatives in the law was to try to eliminate the statute of limitations laws so girls could have sexual interactions when they were barely pubescent. He has, of course, dismissed all allegations against him, despite copious evidence, as, quote, "unequivocally and completely false."
Ghislaine Maxwell: the daughter of the late press baron who seems to have disappeared from his yacht after being found out for using the pension funds of his employees to enrich himself. He walked off the Ghislaine, the yacht he named after his favorite daughter. Ghislaine Maxwell was Epstein's right-hand recruiter of young women. She hung around at high schools. She found the girls who were homeless, or very poor, and recruited them, promising them an education, promising them gifts, and inviting these intimidated girls to Jeffrey Epstein's mansion as masseuses, or dancers, or painters in whom he was interested for their excellent painting. She has disappeared – how convenient. She's a British citizen, and she has a mail drop in Florida, but no one has found her. Maybe she went the way of Jeffrey Epstein and is dead now, or she's being allowed to just quietly disappear into thin air.
Epstein's main patron was the multibillionaire L. Wexner, who I mentioned, who gave him complete power. Epstein got complete power over the billions that Wexner had. Now, as an example of what I mean: Epstein made $200,000 just on one financial transaction for Wexner alone. And you wonder: Why was Wexner so very generous?
Another very important financial figure who was very tight with Epstein was Leon Black of the Apollo Global Management fund, which is one of the biggest private-equity funds in the world. BV70 LLC is a charity that's controlled by Leon Black. Leon Black donated $10 million to Epstein's charity called Gratitude America, even while the Attorney General's Office questioned whether these foundations ever gave anything to anyone. These foundations are tax-deductible ways for billionaires to give each other money and to make payments for things that are questionable. And certainly, as we know, a lot of Epstein's services to rich men were questionable.
Epstein also partnered in a partnership with Ehud Barak, Israel's past prime minister, who was the prime minister from 1999 to 2001. And that was reported in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, because they do have an alternative newspaper.
Jess Staley is one of the business and political friends Epstein cultivated to place himself right at the nexus of money and power. Staley is now this head CEO at Barclays Bank of England. While Epstein was incarcerated in 2008-9, Jess Staley visited Epstein at his Palm Beach, Florida, office – where he was allowed to go for 12 hours a day, where a judge permitted Mr. Epstein to go during his very light sentence. In 2009 Mr. Staley was promoted to head JP Morgan's investment bank – no small potatoes.
His successor at the head of the asset-management business at the bank, and at the donor fund for wealthy clients, was Ms. Mary Erdoes, regarded as an expert in wooing wealthy customers. Presented with a compliance officer's recommendation that Mr. Epstein ought to be kicked out of the bank as a risk for his behavior, Ms. Mary Erdoes protested he was too valuable a client, no matter what he did. And that was according to six executives who reported that to The New York Times and The New Yorker. Losing Mr. Epstein would mean potentially losing all those wealthy contributors to which he was connected, and we know that his connections probably had to do with all those services he provided. Ms. Erdoes was reported acting to benefit the person who got her that job: Jess Staley, who's now at Barclays. She ultimately prevailed. A compliance officer within the bank left in protest; three employees reported it and were upset. But Epstein had invested a billion dollars of Wexner's certificates from the stock market, stock certificates, at the Morgan Chase wealthy-donors fund, so naturally that seemed to fly. And naturally Mary Erdoes doesn't remember a thing about it. She doesn't recall Mr. Epstein. She doesn't recall ever meeting with him at all. She remains in charge of the asset-management division at Morgan Chase, which has more than two trillion dollars in assets. She also has a seat on the JP Morgan powerful operating committee. It's strange that she didn't cut ties until Jess Staley joined a hedge fund and left Morgan Chase.
After being expelled by Morgan Chase, Epstein moved his business to Deutsche Bank, where he opened dozens of accounts. Compliance officers, once again, at the German bank, raised concerns about Epstein's transactions, which they regarded as quite suspicious. They tried to get the bank to end all relationship with Epstein. And guess what happened. Executives overruled losing Epstein's business. The Deutsche Bank only stopped business with Mr. Epstein in June 2019, a couple of months ago.
Another, quote, friend who was close to Epstein's friend was, as I said before, Prince Andrew, who was so often seen at Epstein's dinners.
Even dirty money talks very loudly. Powerful institutions and individuals, eager to profit from Mr. Epstein and his network of wealthy acquaintances, just looked past what he did to young women, his criminal history, and his sex-offender status. As a result, he managed to retain crucial business connections even as, prosecutors said, he trafficked girls as young as 14. These profiteers were not alone. Harvard University, when asked, says it already spent the $6.5 million that Epstein donated. Another gift of Epstein's to university remains quite foggy. Epstein had pledged $30 million to establish a program for evolutionary dynamics run by a Martin Nowak, who often came to conferences which Epstein held – conferences during which he always had young women there, fondled them, and during which he went to the back room for other sexual activities. A Harvard source said they didn't get the whole $30 million. All they got was $5.6 million, which they already spent, so they can't give it back. Naturally, a multibillion-dollar university like that could give a lot back, if it were interested. The University of Arizona said it isn't returning the $50,000 it received in 2017. The University of British Columbia isn't giving back the $25,000 it got from Epstein's charity. Ohio State, which had at least $25,000 donated, is not giving it back. And in the most dramatic recent exposé, MIT's Media Lab was very eager to net millions from Epstein – so eager that its director, Ito, sent out orders to keep Epstein's tarnished name a secret and just accompany the announcement of these very generous donations as "anonymous" or with the initials "J.E." Epstein wanted to make donations to scientists, and to MIT's Media Lab, and others, because he wanted to cover his rap in Florida with a reputation as a philanthropist, and a lover of science, and also an advisor. Brown University accepted his tarnished money that covered his criminal traces. He wanted to be known as a philosopher and a philanthropist, rather than an out-of-control philanderer.
You wonder, what was exchanged here? Because people at this level don't have friends that just like each other. It's always some kind of exchange. That leaves us with questions. Many of these men flew on Epstein's jet. The names of the fliers have still been kept from us. There they got to rape barely pubescent young women, and used them as they wished. Epstein loaned these girls to men. But Epstein was smart enough to blackmail these men, which helped his financial connectivity when he wanted a few million to cover his traces and make him a philanthropist. He had cameras installed all over his estate on the island, which record these men raping sex slaves of barely legal age. I'm sure that eased the way for these men to give Epstein some control over their vast funds – which were so vast it didn't matter – and also to be philanthropic to Epstein's contacts, which made him a greatly welcomed member of contacts with people like Morgan Chase, with people like Deutsche Bank, with people like Harvard, with people like, or institutions like, MIT. And if you have any doubt about any of this, just google it. It's all there in its shocking clarity.
And the bases of the friendships in this group are all transactional, mutually beneficial, which makes you wonder, what's the great thrill in raping people who have barely emerged from childhood? Why? Why is that so exciting, for grown men to rape people that are basically children? I tried to understand that in order to clarify it for myself because I can't imagine why that is so thrilling, that you would go to the lengths of associating with a criminal just for a chance – and giving him millions – for a chance to rape kids. This is what I came up with in my understanding: Adolescent males are really allowed to be needy in only one area, and that's sex. They're not allowed to want hugs, they're not allowed to want to just snuggle and be comforted, they're not allowed to cry on each other's shoulders, or anyone else's. They're trained to deny all needs except for the need for sex, which is directed, at that age, to girls of their age: barely pubescent girls. Also, if you see sex as power – the chance to overwhelm your neediness – then the power play of raping people who are barely out of childhood might be men's powerful revenge on the girls that denied them when they were teenagers. We could see that in the case of Kavanaugh and his friends. Boys' sports allow some contact, actually more physical contact than girls' sports. They can tap each other on the butt, in basketball they can smash into each other, in football, in rugby. But they're not allowed to be tender with one another. In addition, the excellent psychiatrist James Gilligan, who's written about 25 books on the subject of sexual assault and sexual dynamics, says that the best way to transfer shame onto other people is to give them unwanted, resisted sexual attention – to push yourself on them sexually. And perhaps these men pushed away their shame at neediness, and their shame at being sexually denied, onto these children. Porn culture often presents women as overwhelmed and somehow wanting to be humiliated. They want a lot of people to come on their face, they want to be choked, they want to be pushed down. That, too, may be a chance to transfer shame. These men, for money and connection, had that chance. And it allowed them not only to transfer shame but to feel very powerful doing it.
Now, what are the gender dynamics? Why is this even a discussion? Why does everyone in the United States know about Trump's penis, that Stormy Daniels reported on, or Duarte's penis, which he shows off all the time? Whereas no one knows about Hillary Clinton's vagina, we know about Bill Clinton's penis from Monica Lewinsky. Angela Merkel was president of Germany for about 14 years – no one knows about her vagina. Why is this so interesting? Why is this a focus? Why is this sexual fascination? And I think it's because sex is power, and power over neediness, for men, which they learned as adolescents.
Why did they get away with it? R. Kelly got accused of shaming, humiliating, and sexually abusing young teens for a long time. He isolated, and brainwashed, and raped them physically and emotionally. Part of it, they're allowed to get away with it, is girls are seen as unreliable witnesses, which is why 100 girls were abused by Larry Nassar, the gymnastics doctor, before they were believed. The officials at Michigan State just didn't believe them. It took an amazing investigation, and a courageous one, by the investigative journalist and star reporter Julie Brown, who looked up whatever names she could find of the 36 girls that Epstein was on record as abusing, before he was sentenced to 13 months with the whole day off. She found their testimony, and she revealed it in The Miami Herald. Justice for all the women Epstein abused has certainly been elusive. Hopefully, that may change. To quote Michelle Licata, one of Epstein's accusers, when she heard about his new indictment, she said, "Finally, finally, finally, maybe some justice."
In order to enjoy violating a young woman, a man has to be completely isolated from identification with this young woman as a human being. That kind of utter divorce from humanity and connection with other people, no matter who they are, is fascistic. It allows people to condemn whole groups of people – like desperate refugees coming to the United States – as rapists and thieves wanting to invade our country. It allows children to be put in cages. I wonder, is there any other gender formation, or even class formation, that fostered these men's disregard for the humanity of the girls they raped? Well, John Bowlby, the famous founder of attachment theory, says that when children are denied the tenderness and attachment that they desperately need, their first emotion is anger, followed by despair, and followed by complete withdrawal. They did studies of children neglected in orphanages where no one picked them up, talked to them. They failed to thrive. And they found that the children just withdrew from life, to the point where they couldn't even develop and learn how to walk. Well, perhaps for male children whose emotions are denied, whose wishes for tenderness and kindness are denied, who are told not to be sissies, not to cry, who are told by their coaches "What's the matter? You acting like a girl? You on your period?" When they're castigated for their emotions, perhaps they withdraw their compassion, like the little children do.
There's other theories. Theorists Nancy Chodorow and Dorothy Dinnerstein provided insights which also help answer the question, what is so exciting about raping young girls? How can these men disregard the humanity of the women they rape? Well, although these women wrote in the late '70s, child rearing has, unfortunately, not changed radically since then, and their insights are still really valuable. Chodorow points out that the towering figures in all children's lives are children's mothers. It's mothers who are children's first food, and first comfort. And that girls develop an identity with their caregivers, with their mothers. A positive identity: I'm a woman, she's a woman; she's a caregiver, I could be a caregiver too. Boys don't have that luxury. There are no males in their lives often, or very shadowy ones, who are not there to pick them up when they cry, and help them learn to walk, and march around with them patting their backs when they're babies, or watch them when they're toddlers. So they often develop a negative male identity, and you see this very clearly in ethnic groups whose fathers are often missing. They develop an identity as the not-female, the rejecting of the female, a very negative identity towards femaleness because they needed to reject their identification with females.
Dorothy Dinnerstein presents a related picture. For Dorothy Dinnerstein, in every child's early childhood, or the overwhelming majority – and that sadly is true now – the towering and powerful figures are women. All children, male and female, in America (other countries are more advanced here) grow up in a matriarchy, where the feared, powerful witnesses to their most humiliating helplessness are women. And women have that fear of other women, but they also have the identity, the continuous identity with those women. Boys don't. And so they divorce themselves from women. Women are the all-powerful other, who needs to be humiliated and rejected. And your need for women, in whatever form it takes, sexual or otherwise, needs to be dismissed, and overcome, and humiliated. That's part of the identity as the not-female.
Dinnerstein believes that this won't change until men equally participate in early childhood. And it's women who dominate babysitting, early childhood education, daycare, after-school programs for young children, parenting – all of those things. That is not true, necessarily, elsewhere. If you go to Sweden, or even France, you see an enormous number of men with their children. And in every Swedish men's room there's a changing table, because men have an enormous role to play. They also have required paternity leaves, where they have to spend time off. They don't get extra credit for not staying home with their kids. Same with family leave.
Also, boys are envious of girls' abilities to be emotional. Tomboys can do anything boys can do, and so can women in careers. Tomboys can climb trees, play sports, do all sorts of stuff, whereas for boys to enter female territory – like play with dolls, or "Want to play hopscotch?" or "Want to jump rope?" or "Want to do ballet dancing?" – boys who want that are insulted. Boys who need tenderness and ask their boy friends, their little friends, for hugs are going to be humiliated. They'll be called gay, they'll be rejected, they'll be called sissies. Girls have a much wider range of choices of what to do, and how to play, and how to be, than boys, who are quite deprived and angry.
There are also class considerations here. Epstein covered his sex addiction by surrounding himself with wealthy men and providing them with sexual services. Billionaires, and those who want to enhance their already-bloated fortunes, may share with Epstein a need to disconnect from all the people they exploit. The Amazon workers are a great – not the ones in the jungle (although that, too), but the ones who work for Jeff Bezos – are pushed beyond helplessness, have gone on desperate strikes because of the speedup, who are paid inadequately. And Jeff Bezos, who gets $500 million a day – he like wins the lottery every single day – doesn't feel any emotional connection to those workers. He put $500 million of his own money into developing rockets because he'd like to go into outer space. I'd sort of like him to go into outer space too, but in a different way. It doesn't matter to Jeff Bezos that the Amazon workers are driven to desperation and breakdown because of their working conditions. He's quite typical. The Walton family, the richest family in the world, whose members own Walmart, have a desk at Walmart so that their terribly paid employees can apply for food stamps and our government – and our tax money – can compensate for Walmart's terrible salaries. They spend heavily to destroy union efforts to enable their employees to make a decent wage. Is that compassion for fellow human beings? No, they're trained not to have that. At any rate, Epstein and his rich rapist cohort are enabled by capitalist privilege, male supremacy, twisted gender formation, and grotesque hatred for women, which lets them rape with impunity and cover it up. More about the cover-up in the second episode.
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Transcript by Marilou Baughman
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