Sometime last summer New York Times columnist James Stewart met Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier who was found dead in a Manhattan jail cell over the weekend, at Epstein’s mansion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss rumors that Epstein was advising Tesla chief Elon Musk following the blowback from Musk’s claim that he was close to a deal to take the company private. Epstein claimed he was advising Musk on finding a new chief executive for the company but said Tesla and Musk would deny if asked. They did.
Arriving at Epstein’s home, Stewart was greeted at the door by a very young woman with an Eastern European accent.
“I can’t say how old she was, but my guess would be late teens or perhaps 20,” Stewart wrote in a column for the Times. “Given Mr. Epstein’s past, this struck me as far too close to the line. Why would Mr. Epstein want a reporter’s first impression to be that of a young woman opening his door?”
Despite trying, Stewart could not pry specific from Epstein about his work with Tesla. But he did get to hear a lot about sex and drugs. Stewart said:
If he was reticent about Tesla, he was more at ease discussing his interest in young women. He said that criminalizing sex with teenage girls was a cultural aberration and that at times in history it was perfectly acceptable. He pointed out that homosexuality had long been considered a crime and was still punishable by death in some parts of the world…
He said people in Silicon Valley had a reputation for being geeky workaholics, but that was far from the truth: They were hedonistic and regular users of recreational drugs. He said he’d witnessed prominent tech figures taking drugs and arranging for sex (Mr. Epstein stressed that he never drank or used drugs of any kind).
Stewart wrote that he was struck afterward how little information he was able to get out of Epstein despite a conversation that lasted 90 minutes. The entire interview was “on background,” journalism-talk that means the reporter was not allowed to share it with readers. But now that Epstein has passed into his Eternal Desert that promise has expired, according to Stewart.
“Behind him was a table covered with more photographs. I noticed one of Mr. Epstein with former President Bill Clinton, and another of him with the director Woody Allen. Displaying photos of celebrities who had been caught up in sex scandals of their own also struck me as odd,’ Stewart wrote.
Later, after failed attempts to lure Stewart to dinner with Woody Allen and Steve Bannon (Bannon told Stewart he did not attend), Epstein asked Stewart to write his biography. Stewart declined because he was already working on another book.