As soon as media outlets began reporting that Jeffrey Epstein had died of an apparent suicide, commentators on social media started touting conspiracy theories about his death. On Saturday evening, Donald Trump joined the bandwagon.
The president first retweeted a message that claimed “documents were unsealed yesterday revealing that top Democrats, including Bill Clinton, took private trips to Jeffrey Epstein’s ‘pedophilia island’.” A bit later, he went full-on conspiracy theorist, retweeting a message from conservative comedian Terrence K. Williams that pretty much accuses the Clintons of killing Epstein.
Earlier on Saturday, Lynne Patton, an official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, posted about Epstein’s reported suicide on Instagram, writing “Hillary’d!!” as the caption. She also added: “#VinceFosterPartTwo.” That hashtag refers to the lawyer in Bill Clinton’s White House who died by suicide in 1993, an incident that launched unfounded conspiracy theories that persist to this day.
Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, a devoted Trump ally, tweeted that “Epstein should have been at least on Arkanside Watch,” referring to Clinton’s home state of Arkansas. A Florida Republican official also asked on Twitter if it was “even debatable at this point” that Clinton had something to do with Epstein’s death. And an editor at conservative news website the Blaze said that it looked like the “Clintons got another person to ‘commit suicide’.”
Epstein had relationships with many of the world’s most powerful people, including both Trump and Bill Clinton. Clinton is known to have flown on Epstein’s planes several times while Trump did so at least once. Video has also emerged showing Epstein and Trump partying together at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
Some saw a conspiracy that goes beyond Trump or Clinton. MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, for example, tweeted that Epstein’s death was “predictably… Russian.” Others merely raised the question without pointing the finger at anyone directly. Rudy Giuliani wondered in a tweet “who was watching” Epstein during his suicide watch. (Sources have said Epstein wasn’t actually on suicide watch.) Former Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill wrote that “something stinks to high heaven.”
Travis View, a conspiracy theory researcher, told NBC News that the quick reaction to Epstein’s death illustrates that the “fringe conspiracies of two decades ago are touching the mainstream now where even lawyers and people who are otherwise close to the Republican Party feel very comfortable asserting these types of theories.”
Support our independent journalism
Readers like you make our work possible. Help us continue to provide the reporting, commentary, and criticism you won’t find anywhere else.Join Slate Plus