Epstein Death Conspiracies Challenge Facts of the Case
MSNBC host Joe Scarborough tweeted, “A guy who had information that would have destroyed rich and powerful men’s lives ends up dead in his jail cell. How predictably…Russian.” His colleague Joy Ann Reid noted on air that the federal prison where Epstein had died was operated by the Department of Justice. “Let’s just be blunt,” she said. “William Barr’s justice department is not one that you can readily, simply rely upon, and feel confident in. So what do we make of all this now?”
Clara Jeffery, the editor-in-chief of Mother Jones, called the fact that Epstein reportedly wasn’t on suicide watch at the time of his death inside the Metropolitan Correctional Center “sketchy as shit.” And former Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri tweeted, “Something stinks to high heaven. How does someone on suicide watch hang himself with no intervention? Impossible. Unless…..”
Some saw Epstein’s death as cause for a broad indictment of American elites. Sohrab Ahmari, the conservative op-ed editor for the New York Post, touted the wisdom of a bar-owner he knows who’d repeatedly predicted that “our ‘Eyes Wide Shut’-style ruling class” would “never let Epstein live.”
Others, like Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, took a more sharply partisan approach. “Epstein should have been at least on Arkanside Watch,” he tweeted, deploying a portmanteau of “suicide” and “Arkansas” that was being used by Twitter conservatives to accuse the Clintons of foul play.
Amid all the fevered speculation, Mike Cernovich—a right-wing social media personality and proponent of the so-called Pizzagate conspiracy theory—live-streamed his reaction to the Epstein take-cycle. Barely able to contain his glee, Cernovich seemed to revel in how some mainstream journalists were edging closer to his approach.
“Right now, in real time, mainstream media—they’re going to have to adjust their operating software, they’re going to have to adjust their mental model of the world,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how normie mainstream you are. It doesn’t matter how credible you think you are.” The official story of Epstein’s suicide, he declared, “just does not make sense.”
It would be easy to treat this frenzied reaction to Epstein’s death as a sad case study in how conspiratorial thinking has bled into mainstream discourse. But finger-wagging feels inadequate at this moment.
As I’ve written before, every grotesque beat of Epstein’s story—including, now, his untimely death—illustrates how America’s culture of elite impunity, failure, and corruption has allowed conspiracy theorists to thrive.
For some, the initial account of Epstein’s death did leave serious questions unanswered; suspicions of foul play—or at least mind-boggling incompetence—seemed natural. Indeed, by Saturday afternoon, the attorney general, facing bipartisan pressure from lawmakers, announced that both the FBI and the Inspector General would be investigating the death. No matter what facts emerge in the coming weeks or months, some observers will forever remain unconvinced.