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The Last Word on the New Yorker and Isaac Chotiner
This is the last time, I hope, I refer to the misleading article that Isaac Chotiner wrote in the New Yorker about my reporting on Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell over the last twenty years.
What I want to point out is that, strangely, if you bother to read Chotiner’s article closely, it shows that—amid a whole lot of opinionated, fact-less nonsense about my integrity—the answer to the central question of who buried Maria and Annie Farmer’s allegations of Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse back in 2002, and then again in 2011, is…drumroll…Graydon Carter. Further, it shows that when Carter was asked about this, his answers were disproven by the time-stamped emails and transcripts I sent to Chotiner and New Yorker fact-checkers.
So how and why then does the article, on an initial reading, make it appear that I am a liar, an unreliable journalist, while Carter is just brushing off a poor memory?
I’m going to give you the facts about what happened during the reporting of this because I am entitled to defend myself and my reputation when it’s under attack. First, why did Chotiner even write this piece? I’ve had many puzzled phone calls with people asking, What is the point of this piece? The news value? The public interest? It’s a head-scratcher.
My 2003 Vanity Fair article, “The Talented Mr. Epstein.”
The first thing I should say is that it is just completely false for Chotiner to say that “many of the things that she told me—and had told her podcast listeners—turned out to be untrue.” There was one notable mistake I made—about the use of the word “peccadilloes” in my blog. I actually pointed that out to Chotiner, not vice-versa. I told him I found it in the original draft; I don’t know how it got through vetting. It’s a bad mistake, but I owned it and I immediately informed Audible about it as well.
Does he mention my transparency—as compared with the cover-up by Carter? No.
What Chotiner is trying to milk here is that, during the reporting of his piece, he called me often— catching me on the fly at 10pm, or in transit—and so, when he asked me did I remember X from 20 years ago—or things from even one year ago—I was honest that I couldn’t recall off the top of my head. On the spot, I couldn’t remember every precise date and time and fact from the last 20 years. Could you? Once I was back at my computer with the records of the scripts of my podcast and two decades of emails and transcripts in front of me, I corrected what I had made my best guess at on the fly. But he decided to nitpick and say that I “chang[ed] my story from year to year and at times from day to day.”
No. What happened is he’d talk to me when I was without my computer. I’d then go and look at my computer and phone him back with what the documents supported.
And what those documents showed was that I had the Farmers on the record in early drafts of my 2003 article (contrary to what Carter claimed—he said I was late); that those allegations were supported by others (contrary to what Carter claimed); that I was right to believe the Farmers over Epstein (Carter believed Epstein over the Farmers); that editors at Vanity Fair did email that Carter needed to see the 2011 blog prior to publication (he said he never read it); and that changes were made to the blog—with the critical changes of the deletion of the Farmers’ allegations and the insertion of the word “I” by someone other than myself.
I sent all this to Chotiner, most of it after he spoke to Carter who had made his assertion the Farmers were not in my first draft. Chotiner told me he believed he had gotten his story wrong, because an email I showed his fact-checker conflicted with that. Chotiner then castigated me for not previously sending over all my numerous emails from 2002. How was I supposed to know, in advance, what Carter would claim about my reporting? I was bewildered, and I knew Chotiner could not possibly have the right facts. Chotiner then asked me to send over all the records that I had.
So I spent an entire weekend and several nights going through old email records and transcripts, trying to piece together from hundreds of old records exactly what the facts said.
As I was undertaking that journey, I occasionally wondered aloud to Chotiner, via email and phone, if there was Possibility A or B in some cases. I was trying, openly, to get to the actual facts for him—a really time-consuming effort for me, but one I thought was important—and yet he turned around and completely mischaracterized that effort as me being inconsistent. I think that is dishonest.
Chotiner claims, “Ward told me that she was well positioned to report on Epstein because her social circle overlapped with Maxwell’s.” I did not volunteer to him that I was well-positioned to report on Epstein because I knew Maxwell slightly back in 2002. That’s his interpretation. I told Chotiner and his fact-checker that, at the time I received the assignment, I did not even know Maxwell was dating Epstein.
I sent Chotiner the transcripts of my interviews with the Farmers for use on background so he could see what precisely they had told me what happened in 2002. The fact-checker asked me repeatedly about this. Yet what is published about what the Farmers told me does not match with what the transcripts said, or what I said.
When Chotiner discusses my 2011 blog, it is false for him to say that what I told him was contradicted by the documentation I sent. He just doesn’t understand the documentation. He cites what he assumes is my impatience to see the blog published. But no—I was impatient to see the final edit, which was never shown to me. Big difference.
Chotiner’s whole characterization of the 2011 blog is completely misleading. I told him that I regretted this blog and that I’ve not only said that in the past, but I’ve openly and publicly apologized for it. But he didn’t publish any of that. Instead, he just banged on about how the draft, he felt, belittled the Farmers allegations (which were not accurately represented in his article in the first place).
Chotiner mentioned that when he asked me why I didn’t include all of Annie’s allegations, I said, “I wish I could remember.” He doesn’t say that then I phoned him back, a minute later, and gave him the information that I had just recalled. From eleven years ago.
I’m not going to go on (though I could) because, as I said at the top, his piece isn’t only inaccurate, it actually is boring.
If you refer back to my Substack from earlier this week, you will see that I provided Chotiner with clear documentation about what happened at Vanity Fair—documentation that supports my Audible podcast and my documentary series. And though he chose to attack me with all sorts of trivialities, snark, and misrepresentations, the important thing is to note that, ultimately, buried in Chotiner’s article, reluctantly, is the fact that my receipts showed I was right, Carter was wrong. For some reason, it appears that Chotiner and the New Yorker just didn’t really want you to know that. I’ll leave you to speculate just why that was…