Democrats and Hollywood may have another #MeToo problem on their hands with the late Jeffrey Epstein.
Much has been made of President Trump’s one-time association with Epstein, found dead in his jail cell Saturday of an apparent suicide, but the picture emerging of the financier and convicted sex offender reveals an A-lister who hobnobbed with celebrities and gave generously to Democrats.
And not just former President Bill Clinton. Epstein donated $147,426 to Democratic candidates from 1990-2018, versus $18,250 to Republicans. His last GOP donation came in 2000, meaning that he never contributed to the 2016 Trump presidential campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Judging from the media focus, however, viewers would be forgiven for assuming that Epstein was a regular at Make America Great Again rallies.
“I know they keep trying to tie Trump to this, but Trump is the only person who is ever named in the Jeffrey Epstein debacle who stood up to Epstein and said that he was a dirtbag and a bad guy and banned him from his club,” said conservative talk-show host Buck Sexton on his podcast.
“The media, they always say, ‘Trump and Clinton, Trump and Clinton,’ ” Mr. Sexton said. “Well, Clinton is the one who was flying on his jet all the time.”
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Both the Democrats and GOP have faced their share of MeToo issues, but for Democrats, the issue is particularly fraught, given their efforts to position the party as the champion of women’s rights and charge Republicans with waging a “war on women.”
Like Mr. Trump, a host of Democrats, celebrities and media figures have sought to distance themselves from Epstein since his arrest a month ago on child sex-trafficking charges in which he was accused of exploiting dozens of teenage girls as young as 14.
He reportedly hanged himself with a bedsheet in his cell at the Metropolitan Correction Center in Manhattan. He had been under a suicide watch, but was taken off earlier in the month — prompting Attorney General William P. Barr to announce that the FBI and Inspector General would investigate.
In court documents released Friday, Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre said she was directed as a teen to have sex with a host of prominent business and political leaders, including former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, both Democrats.
Both men have flatly denied the allegations, which appeared part of a 2015 lawsuit against Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s alleged madam. So have Harvard Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz and Great Britain’s Prince Andrew, whom Ms. Giuffre has previously accused.
Ms. Giuffre stated in the lawsuit, which was settled in 2017, that she met Mr. Clinton, Mr. Trump and former Vice President Al Gore, and that Epstein once hosted a dinner on his island for Mr. Clinton, but none was accused of wrongdoing.
“We know both Trump and Clinton were associated with Epstein at various times in various ways, but in terms of what we have, there’s no indication that any of the three of them did anything improper,” Giuffre attorney David Boies told the Miami Herald.
Clinton spokesman Angel Urena said in a statement last month that the former president knew nothing about Epstein’s “terrible crimes,” and that Mr. Clinton took four trips accompanied by Secret Service and staff on Epstein’s private plane in 2002 and 2003.
“He’s not spoken to Epstein in well over a decade, and has never been to Little St. James Island, Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico, or his residence in Florida,” said the July 8 tweet.
In 2016, Fox News reported that Mr. Clinton flew on the plane known as the “Lolita Express” on at least 26 occasions, citing flight logs, although it’s possible that the four trips cited in the Clinton statement could have had several legs.
Still rubbing elbows after conviction
Even after Epstein’s 2008 conviction on soliciting an underage girl for sex in Florida, the billionaire still “moved freely in Hollywood circles,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
He attended the 2016 premiere of “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” in New York City. A 2010 party at his Manhattan mansion in honor of Prince Andrew featured Woody Allen, Katie Couric, Charlie Rose, Chelsea Handler and George Stephanopoulos, as reported by the New York Post.
Ms. Handler told The New York Times that the event was billed as an opportunity to meet the royal. The invitation was extended by society hostess and publicist Peggy Siegal, who has since been dropped by several Hollywood companies over the reports, according to Variety.
“That dinner was the first and last time I’ve seen him,” Mr. Stephanopoulos, referring to Epstein, told The Times. “I should have done more due diligence. It was a mistake to go.”
Most of Epstein’s political giving came before his 2008 conviction, including contributions to the Senate campaigns of Democrats Hillary Clinton of New York and John Kerry of Massachusetts, as well as Republicans Bob Dole and Phil Gramm.
In the 2016 and 2018 cycles, however, Epstein donated $8,100 to Democratic Del. Stacey Plaskett of the Virgin Islands. She has since said she will donate the contributions to local organizations working with women and children.
“I want it to be clear that I in no way support the allegations and have confidence in the Southern District of New York to investigate and prosecute the matter,” Ms. Plaskett said in a statement.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee returned a $10,000 donation from Epstein in 2018.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, who collected about $22,000 from 1992-99 in donations to his own campaigns and joint fundraising efforts, has said he will donate that amount to groups fighting sex trafficking and violence against women.
So far the only public figure to pay a price for his Epstein association is former Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who resigned last month over his role as federal prosecutor in the 2008 plea deal that resulted in a 13-month sentence for Epstein.
Mr. Trump and Epstein socialized at parties and gatherings in Palm Beach, Florida, as shown in photos and videos. In 2002, Mr. Trump was quoted calling Epstein a “terrific guy,” but later allegedly barred him from Mar-A-Lago over “assaulting a girl at the club,” according to the New York Post, quoting a 2011 court document.
“I knew him like everybody in Palm Beach knew him. People in Palm Beach knew him. He was a fixture in Palm Beach,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House last month. “I had a falling out a long time ago. I don’t think I’ve spoken to him for 15 years. I wasn’t a fan.”