The Epstein Deflections
The Media Research Center first tried to make political hay over convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein's links to Bill Clinton -- then got mad that the media pointed out he was also linked to Donald Trump (not to mention the MRC's favorite "liberal," Alan Dershowitz).
By Terry Krepel
First came Clinton-related distractions. Epstein first popped up at the MRC in a 2011 post attacking then-CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric for having "attended a party at the Manhattan townhouse of Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender accused of trafficking underage girls," suggesting she was a hypocrite for this after having written a blog post "calling on Congress to pass tougher legislation to combat underage sex trafficking."
In 2015, the MRC latched onto links between Epstein and Bill Clinton to play guilt by association. Tom Blumer attacked Vanity Fair magazine for allegedly failing to expose Epstein when it had a chance in 2003, adding that "Epstein had recently become publicly visible as a result of his 2002 African travels with former President Bill Clinton." P.J. Gladnick complained that CNN reports about Epstein's so-called "Sex Fiend Island" were "resolutely mum" about Clinton and focused instead on Prince Andrew's ties to Epstein, sneering: "Pay no attention to the president behind the curtain. Instead we want you to focus entirely upon an utterly powerless prince that we are shining the bright lights upon. Despite the fact that other news outlets are bringing up the name of a certain former president we want you to look only at Prince Andrew of Great Britain. Got that? And if you haven't then we will overwhelm you with Prince Andrew mentions whenever we report on the Sex Fiend Island scandal." A few days later, Gladnick touted how one writer "speculates as to what Bill Clinton could have possibly been doing at the Sex Fiend Island luxury home of registered pedophiliac sex offender Jeffrey Epstein."
The following month, Randy Hall promoted then-Republican National Committee communications director Sean Spicer (later to be an inept press secretary for President Trump) in distraction mode over remarks Rudy Giuliani had made attacking President Obama by claiming that "there was hardly a single headline over Bill Clinton’s travels with (registered sex offender) Jeffrey Epstein, something we learned about only recently." Melissa Mullins gloated: "It seems as though Bubba is mixed up in a sex scandal due to his involvement and friendship with convicted pedophile and billionaire Jeffrey Epstein. ... The Clinton’s took money from a convicted pedophile ....and they knew it! I guess standing up for abused and mistreated women (and underage girls) doesn’t fall into the category of 'war on women.' At least not when money is involved. Hypocrisy at its finest." Gladnick snuck back to quip: "Has Hillary unfriended Jeffrey Epstein of Sex Fiend Island yet?"
The Finkelstein deflections
NewsBusters blogger Mark Finkelstein took up the MRC's Epstein distraction baton. In a January 2016 post, he cheered MSNBC's Joe Scarborough because he "blew the whistle on the MSM this morning regarding its unwillingess to say publicly what people in major newsrooms have incessantly discussed--Bill Clinton's mistresses and the lurid tales involving Jeffrey Epstein, he of Orgy Island infamy, and Clinton" and praised then-candidate Donald Trump for bringing it up during his presidential campaign.
Finkelstein followed up an April 2016 post, this time distracting from the sex-abuse allegations against former Republican congressman Denny Hastert:
As far-left MSNBC hosts go--an admittedly low bar--I'll admit to having found Chris Hayes a relatively fair and decent proponent of his misguided policies. But he did two things tonight that made me lose respect for him. First, he literally laughed in the face of Rick Tyler, calling "preposterous" his depiction of Donald Trump as a "northeastern liberal progressive." This despite Trump's record of donating to . . . northeastern liberal progressives and describing himself, among other things, as "very pro-choice." Would Hayes ever be so rude to a liberal guest?
Epstein has a relationship with Trump too, but Finkelstein didn't mention that. Nor did he mention that occasional friend of the MRC Alan Dershowitz also had a close relationship with Epstein -- serving as his lawyer at one point. (More on that later.)
Nicholas Fondacaro popped in with a May 2016 post complaining that media outlets who don't hate Clinton the way the MRC does didn't report on a story from Fox News (which Fondacaro didn't disclose also has an anti-Clinton bias) featuring "explosive new details" about Clinton's relationship with Epstein. He also didn't mention that Epstein also had connections with the then-newly minted Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump.
The Finkelstein deflections, Part 2: Shielding Trump
Fast-forward to this year: As Trump's links to Epstein started gaining more notice, the MRC had a new deflection issue. Finkelstein whined in a Feb. 23 post:
Court documents show that Bill Clinton took at least 26 trips on convicted sex-offender Jeffrey Epstein's notorious "Lolita Express" party plane. There's no indication that Donald Trump ever did. But in a segment on Epstein on her MSNBC show today, Joy Reid managed to refer to President Trump six times, accompanied by extended photo displays of Trump in Epstein's company.
It's almost cute how Finkelstein is pretending that Trump has no links whatsoever to Epstein. To the contrary: Politico reported that Epstein "was a regular for several years at Mar-a-Lago. Testimony in a prior court case indicated that Trump flew at least once on one of the planes Epstein owned and Trump’s phone numbers were in Epstein’s personal phone directory." One of Epstein's victims, a 15-year-old girl, was recruited by Epstein while working as a towel girl at Trump's Mar-a-Lago club. Additionally, the attorney who cut the deal that let Epstein get off with a relative slap on the wrist, Alexander Acosta, is Trump's labor secretary.
(There's also the fact that Trump is currently the president while Clinton has not been for quite some time.)
Additionally, the video montage Finkelstein supplied is a bit on the curious side. Two of the instances are of Reid edited to say only "Donald Trump" without context, which tells us that Finkelstein is trying to hide something. One reference noted the fact that Trump was a friend of Epstein, another noted the link to Acosta, and a fifth noted Trump's previous praise of Epstein.
Finkelstein slid even more into denial in a March 28 post, whining that MSNBC's Joe Scarborough "is test-marketing a new line of attack: attempting to tie President Trump to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein" and "fantasizing about the possibility that Epstein was at the table at Mar-a-Lago when Trump reportedly mentioned to wealthy friends that he had made them money with his tax cuts." Finkelstein huffed in response: "Just one problem with Joe's fantasy: as Scarborough presumably knows, Epstein couldn't have been there. As reported in the Washington Post, according to court documents Trump has barred Epstein from Mar-a-Lago for assaulting an underage girl."
Well, temporarily overlooking the fact that Finkelstein seems to be conceding that being banned from Mar-a-Lago means Epstein must have been a regular there and, thus, linked to Trump, let's take a look at that Post article Finkelstein is citing. It notes that Trump was an "occasional guest" of Epstein, adding:
One woman, Virginia Giuffre, sued Epstein’s longtime friend Ghislaine Maxwell, who she said recruited her in 1999 from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club to be Epstein’s “sex slave,” starting with “massages” and moving to sex acts. Giuffre had worked at the club as a 15-year-old locker room towel girl. She settled with Maxwell last year.
That's a lot of links to Epstein (and that doesn't even include the Alex Acosta connection). Why doesn't Finkelstein want to admit that these ties exist? Indeed, Finkelstein is so desperate to district that he adds a note at the end of his post: "If there is one President who deserves to be tied to Epstein, it is, of course, Bill Clinton. He reportedly flew 26 times on Epstein's private Boeing 727, AKA the 'Lolita Express,' ditching his Secret Service protection on several occasions."
Finkelstein continuing to deny the truth about Trump and Epstein just makes him look even more pathetic.
Full-on Trump deflection
With Epstein's most recent arrest on charges of sex trafficking and new focus on labor secretary Acosta's role in working out a sweet plea deal for Epstein while a federal prosecutor, the MRC was compelled to deflect and defend anew.
A July 8 post by Kristine Marsh set the stage, huffing that one ABC news show failed to report on "Epstein’s highly controversial connection to former President Bill Clinton" or that Epstein was "a major Democrat [sic] donor," referencing a Fox News report (of course) claiming that "Clinton was a frequent flier on Epstein’s private jet full of underage girls." Marsh further complained that other news reports "tried to connect Epstein to Trump" and one of those reports "didn’t mention that after Epstein had been convicted of assaulting an underage girl, Trump had barred him from Mar-a-Lago." Marsh didn't address the issue of why Trump allowed Epstein into Mar-a-Lago in the first place.
Scott Whitlock followed up the next day: "ABC finally broke its silence, finally mentioning Bill Clinton’s connection to registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, a man now accused of new charges of sex trafficking. But the combined mentions on Monday night and Tuesday morning only amounted to 38 seconds. In comparison, the total amount of Epstein coverage since Sunday has been 21 minutes and 3 seconds." Whitlock failed to acknowledge Trump's links to Epstein, though he did reference the Acosta controversy.
Marsh got all huffy again in another deflection-filled post, complaining that "The View" co-host Joy Behar "tried desperately to connect the longtime Democrat donor to President Trump" though "Epstein was a major donor to the Clinton Foundation and President Bill Clinton reportedly took over two dozen trips with the sexual predator on his private jet nicknamed the 'Lolita Express'."
Ryan Foley, meanwhile, simply engaged in stenography, touting how Fox News host and Trump sycophant Sean Hannity was "scorching the media’s attempt to make President Trump such an outsized force in coverage of the Jeffrey Epstein case," making sure to repeat the talking point that Trump "banned him from Mar-a-Lago years ago."
Emma Fantuzzo groused that MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell and guest Tim O’Brien made over-the-top claims and speculations into the relationship between recently indicted Jeffery Epstein and President Donald Trump," further complaining that a "17-year-old quote" from Trump calling Epstein a "terrific guy" and complementing his taste in younger women "was supposedly evidence that Epstein still stands in the President’s good graces, despite accounts that Trump banned Epstein from Mar-a-Lago years ago for inappropriate behavior." She added, per the MRC's narrative: "Incredibly, the only mention of Bill Clinton was in his defense, citing the statement written by Clinton that he hadn’t known about Epstein’s crimes."
Alex Christy complained about "insistence on Wednesday's Deadline: White House comparing President Trump to alleged serial child sex abuser and trafficker Jeffrey Epstein," while Gabriel Hays gave a big "YAWN" to "lefty" John Lithgow "read[ing] an excerpt from his poetry on Trump’s relationship with now-resigned Department of Labour Secretary Alexander Acosta, a man Lithgow believes covered for sex trafficker, billionaire Jeffrey Epstein," sneering "Clearly Lithgow wants us to know he’s a Renaissance man … Please clap?"
Bill D'Agostino whined:
On Sunday, CNN’s Brian Stelter and Phil Mattingly warped the recent sentencing of child abuser and Democratic mega-donor Jeffrey Epstein into a story about (who else?) Donald Trump. Following the resignation of Labor Secretary Alex Acosta who had come under scrutiny for a shockingly favorable plea deal he had previously granted Epstein as a federal prosecutor both Stelter and Mattingly brandished Acosta’s resignation as the latest example of instability and high turnover within the White House.
So in denial is the MRC over Trump and Epstein that when a video surfaced of the two together at a 1992 party, Gregory Price insisted there was no news value whatsoever:
If there is one thing that is sure to end the presidency of Donald Trump, it is a video of him at a party in 1992 surrounded by NFL cheerleaders and having a conversation with Jeffrey Epstein long before anyone knew he was guilty of sex trafficking. On Wednesday, NBC News went through its archives to find a segment from Faith Daniels’ NBC talk show that captured Trump at one of his Mar-a-Lago parties (something common in the ‘80s and ‘90s).
But if the current president's link to a convicted pedophile is not newsworthy, why is a long-former president's link somehow totally newsworthy? Unsurprisingly, Price never explained the difference.
An Aug. 12 item by Finkelstein argued that MSNBC's Scarborough had no business criticizing Trump for spreading the conspiracy theory that Epstein was really murdered by the Clintons and not by his own hand because Scarborough suggested that Epstein died a very "Russian" death, which Finkelstein called "bizarre" though he applied no descriptor to Trump's even more bizarre conspiracy theory. Finkelstein paraded his double standard: "Does Scarborough really think he's going to get away with this feeble flimflam of blaming Trump for something he himself engaged in? Not so long as NewsBusters is around!"
The next day, Rich Noyes ranted that network newscasts didn't identify as Democrats two politicians accused by one of Epstein's victims, Virginia Giuffre, of having sex with underage women procured by Epstein. But Noyes was engaging in his own serious omission: Another powerful man whom Giuffre has accused of having sex with her while underage is Alan Dershowitz.
The Dershowitz silence
The MRC has long loved to tout Dershowitz's liberal credentials, since he regularly voices conservative-friendly opinions. NewsBusters repeatedly touted how the "liberal" Dershowitz defended Rick Perry against a supposedly "politically motivated" indictment while Texas governor, and Gladnick even took perverse delight in the idea that Dershowitz may have made a panelist cry during a TV debate.
That love grew after he became a high-profile supporter of President Trump and conservative-friendly causes. Here are some of the Dersh-loving headlines at the MRC over the past couple years:
But as Dershowitz's entanglement with Epstein became more prominent, the MRC didn't really want to talk about it.
The Dershowitz-Epstein link has been mentioned only twice at the MRC: a March 7 piece by Ryan Foley giving Ann Coulter space to whine that the Clinton-Epstein was being ignored while "irrelevant prince" Dershowitz was allowed to go on CNN to defend himself; and a July 18 item by Gregory Price that left a reference to Dershowitz buried in a transcript.
That last item, by the way, is the last time Dershowitz has been mentioned by the MRC's main content website, NewsBusters, in any context. Meanwhile, at the MRC's "news" operation, CNSNews.com -- which similarly published Dershowitz's pro-Trump defenses, including a desperate and laughable piece on him making the argument that it's no big deal to for Trump to pay hush money to porn stars because it's not a crime -- his last appearance was in a July 24 article by Susan Jones that touted Dershowitz's attack on Robert Mueller's congressional testimony, asserting Mueller should "shut up" since he didn't indict anyone. Jones followed Dershowitz's "shut up" dictate by refusing to mention his link to Epstein.
Those July appearances were the last for Dershowitz at the MRC -- for a while. It seems, however, that the MRC is slowly easing into a little image rehab for him. A Sept. 27 post by Brad Wilmouth cited Dershowitz among the "high-profile liberal professors" who have argued that the transcript of the phone call between President Trump and the Ukranian president "does not constitute proof of lawbreaking" -- his first mention at the MRC in two months. Needless to say, Wilmouth didn't mention Dershowitz's links to Epstein.