Jeffrey Epstein gave a series of interviews on film in 2019 in which his interviewer said the financier and convicted sex trafficker was “engaging, not threatening … [not] at all creepy … a sympathetic figure”.
The interviewer was the former Trump strategist Steve Bannon.
The episode, as reported by the New York Times, is described in a book of profiles, Too Famous: The Rich, the Powerful, the Wishful, the Notorious, the Damned, due out in October. The author is Michael Wolff, who wrote Fire and Fury and two other exposés of Donald Trump’s presidency.
The Times also reported that Bannon told Epstein to “look directly into the camera now and then”, so as not to come across as stupid, and advised his subject “not to share his racist theories on how Black people learn”.
“Mainly, Mr Bannon tells Mr Epstein, he should stick to his message, which is that he is not a paedophile. By the end, Mr Bannon seems impressed.”
Wolff reports that the interviews were preparation for an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes which never occurred.
Bannon confirmed to the Times that he taped more than 15 hours of interviews with Epstein but said he was not media-training him, but rather making “a previously unannounced eight- to 10-hour documentary” about Epstein’s “perversions and depravity toward young women” and links to the “global establishment”.
Earlier this year, Ira Rosen, a veteran 60 Minutes producer, discussed how he set up “one of the all-time great” 60 Minutes interviews with Bannon himself. Bannon, he said, told him he believed Trump had early stage dementia and might be removed from office. That claim did not make the final tape.
Asked by Yahoo News how seriously people should take Bannon’s claims, Rosen said “the trick in trying to deal with Steve” was to work out how much was meant simply to draw attention to himself.
His former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, awaits trial in New York on sex trafficking charges. She has pleaded not guilty. Last week, Prince Andrew was served with an affidavit in a lawsuit brought by an alleged Epstein victim, Virginia Giuffre, who says she was forced to have sex with him when she was 17, an allegation the prince “absolutely and categorically” denies.
Bannon, a hard-right political gadfly who chaired the Trump campaign in 2016, was a major source for Fire and Fury, Wolff’s huge bestseller about the first year of the Trump presidency.
Bannon left the White House in August 2017, amid uproar over a neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, Virginia. But he remained a key figure in Trumpworld and an influence on Wolff’s next two books, Siege and Landslide. Trump pardoned Bannon on charges of fraud.
The Times reported that Wolff also recounts an offer from the film producer Harvey Weinstein, made during his rape trial in which he was convicted last year, to co-write an autobiography.
Wolff also told the paper Epstein “wanted me to write something about him – a kind of a book – though it wasn’t clear why”.