So, it’s over. This chapter of the Jeffrey Epstein saga, at least.
Ghislaine Maxwell has been convicted on five counts out of six charges that constitute hideous sex crimes against children.
She was reportedly emotionless as she heard the verdict.
The mystery is what is going on inside her head.
Ghislaine Maxwell in court for her trial on charges of sex trafficking, in New York City, on December 3, 2021. || JANE ROSENBERG / Getty
We never got to hear from Maxwell herself this whole trial. Her defense’s strategy was to undermine the credibility of the accusers, not to explain her narrative.
So I went back and looked over the transcript of my 2002 interview with Maxwell about Maria and Annie Farmer, the latter who so bravely testified a couple of weeks ago. It was the one and only conversation I had with her on the topic of Annie and Maria Farmer.
It’s very revealing because it tells us—in her own words—who Maxwell really is and what she values. (It also shows that she lied to me about not giving Annie Farmer a massage.)
Here, for the first time, is our conversation, which was transcribed from micro-cassettes by a professional transcription service. The only redaction is the name of an employee who worked at Zorro Ranch, Epstein’s home in New Mexico.
MAXWELL: Hi. Listen, I just got faxed something from the fact checker at Vanity Fair...the implication of which is so outrageous and disgusting to me that I cannot understand for the life of me why you would put something like that in it and not even [Overlap/Inaudible]
WARD: Because—sorry. I'm out of breath. Because this is what they have said on the record.
MAXWELL: But Vicky, it is so repellant and disgusting to me and so thoroughly and absolutely untrue, in every respect, in every which way. That it is beyond even... I just can't even think how to respond to something so horrible. The implication is thoroughly outrageous. Thoroughly untrue. And in every which way disgusting. And I cannot be party to anything like that. These are two girls that benefited greatly from Jeffrey's generosity, and absolutely nothing untoward in any stretch of the imagination ever took place with them. And the implication of what you're saying is something [Overlap/Inaudible]
WARD: No, it's not... It's not what I'm saying. It's what they're saying.
MAXWELL: Vicky. You're repeating it. It's like the lowest thing the tabloid does... It's so untrue. [Overlap/Inaudible]
WARD: No, well that is why... It's what they say.
MAXWELL: I'm [Overlap/Inaudible]—
WARD: It's what they say, and we have to come to you and say if it's not true, number one, can you help us... Can you show us that it's not true—
MAXWELL: [Overlap/Inaudible] It's not true... It is absolutely not true. It is not... There's not even anything in it. You can talk to everybody who comes to the ranch or gets a massage... You've spoken to Marty Novak, you've spoken to [REDACTED]... Why don't you call them and ask them? Every single person who comes to the ranch gets a massage. And I can assure you I have never given a massage, nor am I about to. I have better things to do with my time.
WARD: Well, can we not say that?
MAXWELL: Can you not say that?
WARD: Can we not say in the piece—
MAXWELL: I'm not even... I don't ... Are you crazy? Vicky, I am not responding to two girls who are making stupid allegations that you want to print like...
WARD: Well, no, you have to understand, I've heard and listened to...with great respect ...everything that I've been told about these girls, and I have, you know, gone off and asked people...not just in the art world, but business people who know them for character references—
MAXWELL: But I don't care what business people say. Vicky, all I can tell you is the implications [Overlap/Inaudible] okay? And I will not—
WARD: Yeah, but—
MAXWELL: —and they're absolutely, thoroughly not right... Thoroughly [inaudible] and just not true in any way, shape or form. There's just nothing about that that I like. Nothing that I want to be part of, and nothing... It's just rubbish. And I won't have it. I won't. It's absolutely not right. These are just two girls...you know, who want to make up stories. That's not my problem if they want to go making up stories. They benefited hugely from this man [?] and how come [Overlap/Inaudible]—
WARD: Well, if you give them massages...
MAXWELL: [Overlap/Inaudible] Every Tom, Dick and Harry who's going to say some story... You know that... If I go wizzing around in your life, I can come up with thousands of stories which are rubbish.
WARD: If you—
MAXWELL: It's not right, Vicky. It's not right.
WARD: If you have someone who gives them a massage, or who offered [?] to give them a massage, would this person call us up and say, ‘It was me who gave them a massage’?
MAXWELL: What, what, what? What's this?
WARD: Well, if you have someone who gave this girl a massage and it wasn't you...
WARD: Why don't you—
MAXWELL: It wasn't me! Are you crazy? [Overlap/Inaudible]
WARD: Listen, Ghislaine. I... You know, my job is—
MAXWELL: Does it sound remotely plausible?
WARD: My job is not to come down on one side or the other—
MAXWELL: Well [Overlap/Inaudible] reporter Vicky, not just [Overlap/Inaudible]—
WARD: No. So that's why—
MAXWELL: [Overlap/Inaudible] rumors and stories [Overlap/Inaudible]—
WARD: So I'm asking you, if it wasn't you who gave them, why don't you let me speak to the person who did? And then it's a very simple... Then that's—
MAXWELL: Somebody who ga-… I... I don't even know that she got a massage! I have no idea. You're asking me to find a masseuse or somebody [Overlap/Inaudible]—
WARD: You said, ‘Well, everyone gets offered a massage.’
MAXWELL: I'm sorry, I didn't give—
WARD: You said everybody—
MAXWELL: I didn't give... I can guarantee that. I didn't give her a massage.
WARD: Right. But is there somebody that—
MAXWELL: [Overlap/Inaudible] I can't get some-... Are you asking me to go back... I don't even know when... How long ago this was... And find somebody who gave them a massage?
WARD: Well, that would just be a very simple way to refute what she's saying, that's all.
MAXWELL: A simple—
WARD: And it would be simply wa—
MAXWELL: Let me just say, I did not give her a massage. Okay? I don't give massage.
MAXWELL: Okay? I do not give massages. That is not what... I don't give massages. [Overlap/Inaudible]
WARD: Well, how would you—
MAXWELL: I know. Because I never give a massage. This is not what I do. I don't give massages.
WARD: Okay. So how do I have you saying one thing on one hand...[and] her saying something else on the other hand?
MAXWELL: Excuse me. You're going to believe her over me? Is that what you're saying to me?
MAXWELL: You're going to believe somebody that you don't know who just comes up with a story about Jeffrey...over me? Is that what you're just saying right now? I just want to be perfectly clear.
WARD: I'm saying that is there a way for me to... Is there a way... Is there any concrete way that you can just concretely refute... Is there any evidence to refute what she's saying? Or if not, I have to print both sides. I mean that's accurate reporting.
MAXWELL: You do not have to print both sides of somebody who just comes up with a story, Vicky. You and I both know that. I've been in journalism just as long as you have. And you and I both know that that's not true. Okay? So don't give me ‘I have to do that’ because I know that's just rubbish as do you. This is just outright...it's innuendo. You're just taking some kid's story and printing it. You can't do that. It's wrong. It's absolutely and utterly wrong.
MAXWELL: Can't you just say everybody who goes to the ranch gets a massage? Why don't you call up [REDACTED.] Call up Martin. ‘Did you get a massage?’ Yes. Why don't you ask them? You can ask them at the same time, by the way, if I gave the massage. Why don't you do that?
WARD: All right, well, I'm sure we can say in the piece that everybody who goes to the ranch gets a massage, and that it's not given by you.
MAXWELL: [Overlap/Inaudible] (Laughs)
WARD: I mean you know, Ghislaine, I'm trying—
MAXWELL: I do not give massages, Vicky. Let's just be clear. And I [Overlap/Inaudible]...
WARD: But you won't let me say that in the piece.
MAXWELL: I'm not even going... Why do you say this? Some kid who just says she came to the ranch that I gave a massage to... It's wrong. Okay? It is wrong! I don't like the implication of what you're saying either, for the record. At all. I don't like it at all. Disgusting!
WARD: Well, let me talk to our lawyers. It will be on Monday morning now. And may I—
MAXWELL: I can tell you something. Those two girls got a lot of Jeffrey's generosity. He was very, very good to them. Now whatever it is that they want to say now, or whatever they're doing now… I don't control what they're doing now. But I can tell you that nothing untoward happened whatsoever. But certainly the implication of the questions which I got asked today is so beyond and out of any realm and gross, and I'm horrified. Horrified. And that you could believe two people that you don't know over me is just outside... Just say that because two people—two strangers—come up to you and give a story where you have to print it... That's wrong [?]. And I would really completely reconsider how you phrase that or what you say about it. But I can strenuously deny anything untoward... Period.
WARD: Well, could I not... What you just said is a very, very strongly worded denial. Can I not use that in the piece?
MAXWELL: No, Vicky. Because by denying such rubbish you in some way...as you well know...you make it...you give it some validity. I will not give anything... It's so... [Overlap/Inaudible]
WARD: Let me... Let me... Ghislaine... Okay.
MAXWELL: [Overlap/Inaudible] This is a thousand million miles away from anything that I want to be party to. Okay?
MAXWELL: I will not be party to that. No I will not respond to something so gross. It's gross! The implication is grotesque. And if you think that you can write it, it's... You… I can't even... I don't even know what to say to you.
WARD: But... well—
MAXWELL: You really have to rethink that, Vicky.
WARD: All right. I will talk to our lawyers. I take [Inaudible] what you said. And I will talk to our lawyers. I will talk to [them] Monday. I'm assuming that I have your permission to talk them about our conversation.
MAXWELL: If you use a quote, you have to promise to quote me in full, Vicky.
WARD: Yes. But then I would obviously need to come back and quote you...to go over what quote to use.
MAXWELL: Yes, I'll have to think about that.
MAXWELL: But you have to rethink this. I don't want to be part of anything like that... Just horrible.
WARD: No, I understand.
WARD: But I need to go back to the lawyers. I need to talk to Graydon, and then I'll come back to you on Monday morning and figure out where to go from there.
MAXWELL: Okay. Terrific. Bye.
WARD: Okay. Bye.
So, there you have it—in full, just as Maxwell insisted.
Her false denials condemn her almost as much as the credible testimony of Annie Farmer, which I believed then as now and which was entitled to be told, and all the others.
After my call with Maxwell, I submitted the story to my bosses at Vanity Fair—with the Farmers' description of events and a general denial from Epstein and Maxwell included. I did my journalistic duty: telling both sides of this ugly story. As I was taught from Day 1, journalism lets the readers to decide. But Vanity Fair had other plans.
There was no subsequent conversation between Maxwell and myself because, shortly after my interview with the Farmer sisters and the follow-up with Maxwell, Epstein paid a visit to Graydon Carter at the Vanity Fair offices, and the Farmers’ allegations were cut from my article and a subsequent blog—to my eternal regret. I have felt deeply for the Farmers ever since. (Carter has said I didn’t have sufficient reporting. I disagree.) I don’t know why Vanity Fair decided not to include the Farmer sisters’ allegations in that 2003 story. As a journalist, I am trained to report what credible people tell me or what other evidence supports, and that’s just what I had done. I don’t know what happened behind closed doors, so I can’t say that anything untoward happened there. I just know what didn’t happen: the allegations never ran. I finally did get their story out in the Daily Beast in 2015, but I was twelve years too late.
But what this conversation shows is Maxwell’s entitlement—and her belief that money trumps all. It was “crazy” that I could believe strangers over her and report the on-record allegations. It was also outrageous to think she would have time to give people massages. And how lucky these two girls were to benefit from Epstein’s generosity.
Right there, in this conversation is everything you need to know. This is the narrative that was missing from the courtroom these past weeks, but it does validate the jury’s verdict.
“Use your common sense,” AUSA Maurene Comey had told the jury during her closing arguments. “Your common sense tells you that you don't give someone $30 million unless they're giving you exactly what you want,” Comey said of the huge sum of money Epstein had paid into accounts bearing Maxwell’s name. She continued, “Your common sense tells you the witnesses are not lying and they just cannot be all misremembering the same thing.”
“You are the finders of the fact. You're the judges of the truth,” Comey had told the jury. “Ladies and gentlemen, look at the big picture and use your common sense.”
Apparently, they did.