Around New Years, following the verdict in the Ghislaine Maxwell trial, New Yorker staff writer Isaac Chotiner reached out to me. He asked if I would do an interview with him about my coverage over twenty years of Maxwell and Jeffery Epstein, starting with my 2003 Vanity Fair profile of Epstein.
On the one hand, I became a journalist because I believe in truth-telling.
On the other hand, I was concerned that Conde Nast—the parent company of the New Yorker—is also the owner of Vanity Fair. The same lawyers who were responsible for vetting my 2003 Vanity Fair article are still at Conde Nast. Is this the right venue to explore what really happened back then with Graydon Carter, one of the most influential—and highly paid—editors in the firm’s history?
It turns out, I was right to be doubtful. The piece has landed and it quickly abandons any attempt at exploring how Vanity Fair buried my 2003 reporting on Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse of the Farmer sisters in favor of smearing my reputation as a journalist.
The backstory is that, in 2002, I was assigned by Vanity Fair what I thought would be a straightforward story—to find out where Jeffrey Epstein’s money came from. But very quickly, things started to get complicated. I had been the first journalist to talk with two women—sisters Maria and Annie Farmer—who had on-the-record sexual abuse allegations against Epstein. I put those allegations into the story. They were ultimately removed shortly before the piece went to press. In 2015, I wrote an article in the Daily Beast in which, with cooperation from Annie Farmer, I finally got the Farmer sisters’ allegations published.
My 2003 Vanity Fair article, “The Talented Mr. Epstein”
The events of what happened leading up to the removal of the Farmers’ allegations from the Vanity Fair story are a large part of what the New Yorker story gets wrong.
Carter’s and Vanity Fair’s explanations for what happened have changed over time. At the time of the original 2003 piece, Carter told me he believed Epstein (Carter said, on tape, that he was a “trusting person” because he was Canadian) and that Epstein was clearly “very sensitive” about the women. My line editor at the time told me they felt the piece read better as a business piece. In more recent years, Carter has claimed that I didn’t have the reporting to back up the Farmers’ allegations and that my reporting didn’t meet the “legal threshold” for Vanity Fair. (I disagree. I had Maria and Annie Farmer and their mother all on the record, using their names. I had artist Eric Fischl on the record, too, and businessman David Schafer. Maria had spoken to them all contemporaneously, and then Annie had confided in her mother and sister. They were terrified that Epstein—with his money and power and connections—would rip into their credibility. And, sure enough, that’s exactly what he did.) Carter’s response to my 2015 allegations was that “Epstein denied the charges at the time and since the claims were unsubstantiated and no criminal investigation had been initiated, we decided not to include them in what was a financial story.” He’s gone on now to tell the New Yorker, “My staff, to a person, did not trust her.” (And yet I worked for Vanity Fair for a decade after this. That—and the rest of my record—speaks for itself.) Carter also, according to Chotiner, has suddenly “suggested that he had not been involved in decision-making about the article.”
At no point in the process did anyone at Vanity Fair say to me that I didn’t have the reporting. If anyone had ever said that to me, I would have asked them what they needed in order to meet that standard and then I would’ve gone out and gotten it. (A point I made to Chotiner that, apparently, he felt was moot).
What I do know is that, after I’d filed a draft, Epstein went into Carter’s Vanity Fair office and had a meeting—the content of which was never discussed with me. (If he asked Carter about that, Chotiner didn’t bother to put Carter’s response in the piece. I guess what happens in the offices of senior male executives at Conde Nast is off-limits to a New Yorker staff writer.) But a few weeks following that—a period of time during which my records show that Epstein and Carter continued to communicate—the Farmers and their allegations were cut out of the article.
Given Carter’s shifting story, that mysterious meeting, and the New Yorker piece’s inaccuracies and mischaracterizations, I’ve decided to share lengthy excerpts from the transcripts of my conversations with Jeffrey Epstein and with Graydon Carter himself so that you can read them for yourself and judge what you think actually happened at Vanity Fair back then.
To be clear: I supplied Chotiner with these time-stamped transcripts of conversations I had of conversations with Epstein, and of conversations with Carter. I also supplied Chotiner with emails that have their time and date clearly marked. But I began to suspect during the fact-checking process that Chotiner didn’t appreciate my transparency about the fallibility of memories from 20 years ago. I may not have immediately recalled things he asked me (especially when phoning me up at 10pm, as he did during reporting), but I have all the “receipts” supporting my story. I have kept my transcripts and emails for years, and I was able to go back and painstakingly reconstruct the timeline—to the point that, when Chotiner shared said timeline with Carter, Carter realized he had gotten his own story wrong and is quoted in the piece as saying, “Well, this is my mistake, then. Remember, this was almost 20 years ago.”
That’s precisely why the actual documentation is so important.
I sent Chotiner a timeline—which I kept updating as I dug (Chotiner reported my diligence as “changing” my narrative four times)—and a host of emails about Graydon Carter that showed that the Vanity Fair editor formed a backchannel of his own with Epstein while I was reporting and that Carter’s attitude toward these disturbing allegations was remarkably cavalier. Here’s an excerpt from the call I had with Carter just prior to a conference call with Epstein in October 2002, in which I tell Carter about the Farmers and their allegations:
WARD: And, so, what I have, these two girls really in detail on the record about how they got manipulated by him. And I mean, you know, their stories in themselves are kind of, like, gripping.
CARTER: Oh, you want to play hardball?
Carter said he wanted more on Epstein’s money and he thought I need to find another girl to harden up the Farmers’ allegations. I again brought up the Farmers as being a huge part of the story and Carter said something quite extraordinary:
WARD: Well, I think I do. I mean, these two girls, the story of what happened to them. And that alone ...
CARTER: Are they both under-age?
WARD: One was in her very early 20s. And one was 16.
CARTER: Okay. The 16 ... I mean, what people do in their private lives, I mean, is not that, you know, earth-shattering. I think the money thing is more interesting.
Think about that: “16….what people do in the private lives is not that earth-shattering.” In hindsight, the poor Farmers didn’t stand a chance against that attitude. Nor did I.
What followed was a conference call with Epstein and Carter—a call I still remember feeling totally creeped out by. I get that it was Carter’s job to suck up to Epstein, but, given that Carter already knew about the allegations from me beforehand, there is something striking about the tone of the call, which starts with Epstein asking about Carter’s love life:
EPSTEIN: Graydon, are you really going out with [REDACTED]?
CARTER: Am I what?
EPSTEIN: Are you really dating [REDACTED]? (Laughter)
CARTER: No, she's a friend.
CARTER: She's a lovely friend.
Talk about a self-congratulatory male adoration club.
Then, a little later:
EPSTEIN: Here's the issue. I understand you have sort of a journalistic responsibility, but as you already heard from probably three people, obviously I'd prefer if you didn't do anything. But I am cognizant of the fact that it's unlikely.
CARTER: Right. Okay, first of all, I'll tell you. I have a theory about things. And you can be a recluse and be a recluse, or you can be famous for being a recluse. Which is very difficult. What strikes me is that anybody's entitled to lead a private life, but on a scale that you lead your private life on ... I mean you live big.
CARTER: Mm-hm. That you know, I ... and you're a very good-looking man, and you're very successful—that at some point it is of interest to a journalist. Because you say I've never seen anybody live a life on this scale, and there's something unbelievably sort of old world and glamorous about it, and it's fucking big! And I can remember seeing you ten years ago, one of those Serpentine[?] dinners[?] ... A very good-looking man ... And I asked who you were. I asked friends of the Princess of Wales who you were. And they said, That's Jeffrey Epstein ... and he invests money. And I didn't think anything of it for about, I don't know, nine years ... [Then] all of a sudden, you know ...
EPSTEIN: (Laughs) That's very good, Graydon.
CARTER: What's very good?
EPSTEIN: Serpentine dinner. I forgot about that.
CARTER: And this is not a come-on or anything like that, but I thought you were a very good-looking man. Okay, or anything like that. But I thought ...
EPSTEIN: You've come over to the straight side?
CARTER: Yes, I'm passed over. Yes. (Laughter) So it's when, all of a sudden, things ... you just start hearing about Jeffrey ... we start hearing about you a lot. And people bring it up in conversation, and I think you're at the [REDACTED] lunch in Antibes with Ghislaine, and, all of a sudden, it just seemed like your moment.
EPSTEIN: I understand.
CARTER: And I know you don't want to ... but I was also telling Vicky earlier when I was saying ... You know, you probably should talk, because I'll tell you that if you want to lead a life of seclusion, you have to let off steam. I don't mean let off personal steam. Let some steam out of the boiler, and I thought if you want to do it just once in your life, Vanity Fair's the place to do it. Because ...
EPSTEIN: I don't disagree.
On that call, the two men agree to meet privately. The meeting (which is separate from the one in the Conde Nast office) happened in late October 2002, according to my emails and transcripts, and Epstein is ebullient after it:
WARD: Jeffrey, it's Vicky.
EPSTEIN: So, you know, Graydon asked me four times last night how much money I make.
WARD: (Laughs) He's always asks everyone that.
WARD: He's very ... You have to understand, if you're in journalism, it's kind of something that you're obsessed by, because you make no money yourself.
EPSTEIN: Yeah. As[?] he[?] said[?], what I tried to explain to Graydon in sort of a broad sense was, for example, certain people who inherit money, is that considered making it? I'm not sure.
EPSTEIN: If you find it in your backyard, if you found sort of gold, did you make any?
EPSTEIN: (Overlap) I don't know. And if you earned interest on your money, is that really making money? So the concept is really ... the question really should be, How much do you earn?
WARD: Yes. Okay. So can I ask you that?
EPSTEIN: No. You can ask but you won't get an answer. I make enough to pay for fuel.
WARD: (Laughs) Right, okay. I'm still waiting ... The assistant in the office found me the Jet-Gulfstream clip that you ... I'm assuming that “J” is [REDACTED], but I have—
EPSTEIN: No, “J” is me.
EPSTEIN: “J” is me.
WARD: “J” is you. Well, I have ...Oh, I see. Well, I haven't read the ... till I actually read it, I can't ... I don't know what I'm talking about. But he's got it waiting for me, so I'll get it over the weekend. Okay, so ...
EPSTEIN: (Inaudible/Breaks Up)
WARD: Oh, then now I can hear you.
EPSTEIN: I advise every one of my clients that they should have their own planes.
WARD: Why? They should have, rather than rent? Why? How can that financially work for them?
EPSTEIN: (Inaudible/Breaks Up) it's almost like having ... it's like renting your car.
WARD: It's what?
EPSTEIN: It's like owning a car.
WARD: Or renting a car?
EPSTEIN: Or renting a car, yes.
WARD: Well, rich people always ...
EPSTEIN: Rich people always.
Carter also told Epstein that he’d like 90 percent of what I wrote, and hate 10.
But the real problem came after I raised the Farmers with Epstein. Of course, he denied the allegations. Here’s what he said:
WARD: You took Maria Farmer on because ... Would it be correct that you saw her art, you bought some of it, and she was hard up? And you were kind enough to give her a job? For money?
EPSTEIN: I think I don't really remember. Did I give her a job? I might have. I let her stay at my house when I wasn't there.
WARD: Which house?
EPSTEIN: In Ohio.
WARD: Ohio. Now my—
EPSTEIN: It was a pool house.
WARD: Right. That's my impression is that she needed some place to stay, a place to paint. And you let her have the pool house as a sort of studio. And now how, I suppose my question is, how, you know, what—
EPSTEIN: She wrecked it.
WARD: Right (Laughs) ... Okay. But how ... were you paying, you know, was she meant to give you some paintings?
EPSTEIN: There's usually no ... You don't (Inaudible) ... I very rarely ask people to do something for me. My concept is if I can help somebody who needs help, I do it. (Inaudible) It wasn't sort of a quid pro quo: if you give me paintings, I do that. I don't think so. I don't remember though.
WARD: Right. But why, and tell me something, why were you helping her?
EPSTEIN: I bought lots of paintings from different ... I was on the board of this school. And then she was pointed out as someone who had talent but, you know, needed some help.
WARD: Right. (Inaudible) you mean?
WARD: Right. Okay. And then presumably the sister, I think I said to you, my impression is that she had told you that she had a sister who she felt was very bright and wanted to go to an Ivy League school and so my impression is you paid for her sister to come and visit her in New York, and you gave her advice which included telling her it would help beef up her resume to go on a trip ... I think she went to Thailand.
EPSTEIN: I don’t remember that part. You told it to me, but ... to go to Thailand and do what?
WARD: I think some volunteer work.
WARD: And that it would help her. You know, it would beef her ... So you helped her with her resume.
EPSTEIN: Right. (Overlapping Voices)
WARD: There was the implication that Maria Farmer finally Ohio or left because she felt there was some sort of sexual pressure.
EPSTEIN: For who?
WARD: From you.
EPSTEIN: But for who? For her?
EPSTEIN: I see.
WARD: But it’s, you know, very vague.
EPSTEIN: Yeah, no, there’s nothing. Definitely nothing. See, as I said, I’m very careful because I have a very nice life, and to not do anything that’s funny. (Glitch/Inaudible)
EPSTEIN: Oh, okay. You would understand. (Laughs)
EPSTEIN: There is no sexual pressure. There couldn’t have been. I don’t disparage anyone from ...
WARD: I mean, why did she ... You know, I have the impression that she left sort of slightly hysterically.
EPSTEIN: Because when I showed up in Ohio, the pool house was disgraceful. It was like, you know, things all over the place, and basically I thought it was disrespectful given the place and given the financial support to have taken advantage and been such a pig. And I was tough in saying I thought that was wrong. I knew [REDACTED] had thought there was some ... His recollection was that she thought that I hadn’t made any advances and was upset. … But I don’t remember the details. But certainly there was no ... It’s just not something I do. It’s like when someone said to me, I saw Jeffrey out one night and he was drunk. Right? So it’s easy for me because I don’t drink. And it’s the same thing. I’m very careful, especially with people I help.
WARD: Okay. Well, then now here’s the thing ... What I will just do then is put this in, but not as if I’ve talked to you about it, but just as if, you know ...
EPSTEIN: Yeah, I don’t mind. What I minded really ... Look, if there’s a 19-year-old—she was probably 19 or 20 at the time?
WARD: Maria Farmer?
WARD: I don’t know. No, I think she was early 20s.
EPSTEIN: So from a girl who says ... Even in that instance, it’s not nice for me ... You know, I don’t expect to like everything in your article, but I think that’s fair to put that in and say her version was different than my version. I don’t mind that it’s there. What I was concerned about was I don’t see the relevance of putting that there was a 16-year-old involved in it.
WARD: Right. There was no sexual pressure with Annie?
EPSTEIN: But I don’t think there’s (Overlap/Inaudible) ...
WARD: (Overlap) What I am under the impression is that she went for a weekend with you and Ghislaine to New Mexico to get to know her before she went abroad because you were funding her trip.
EPSTEIN: But I think she was with Maria. I think Maria wanted her to have her sister. I don’t believe it was anything to get to know her. I don’t want to get, you know, (Overlap/Inaudible) ...
WARD: (Overlap) So both of them came.
EPSTEIN: Yes. That’s my best recollection.
WARD: Okay, so Maria left ... So basically you had a sort of buffed-up—
EPSTEIN: Well, I wasn’t a (Overlap/Inaudible)—
WARD: About the, you know, kind of—
EPSTEIN: …kind of disrespectful and given the opportunity to have a place to work she, you know, didn’t take care of it.
WARD: Okay, and then what about ... You had mentioned these ten things. So is there a dispute about ten things that she—
EPSTEIN: I don’t think so.
WARD: Right. I mean, you don’t have any of her stuff ... that she thinks she’s entitled to or ...
EPSTEIN: Right, if she has, she’s never mentioned it. I don’t believe so.
WARD: Right. Okay.
EPSTEIN: Is that your impression?
WARD: Well, no—you mentioned it. (Laughs)
EPSTEIN: No, I think she wanted me to buy more ... You know, she thought that all the work that she did at the house is my recollection. You know, she’d been working somehow doing things for me. And that was just not the case. She was given space to work.
WARD: Okay. That’s it.
EPSTEIN: I’ve given lots of artists a space to work. You know, probably 15 different artists.
WARD: Okay. That’s it.
EPSTEIN: Okay. (Inaudible)
Next, Epstein told me he was on his way to see Carter at the Vanity Fair offices on December 4th.
EPSTEIN: How are you?
WARD: I'm okay, thanks. I'm sorry, I said to [REDACTED] I didn't get your calls yesterday. I'm really sorry I was in at the magazine all day and I didn't hear my cell phone go, so I only got your message at sort of 7:30 last night.
EPSTEIN: Was it an exciting meeting?
WARD: (Laughter) Graydon said that he had spoken to you.
WARD: And so he had said to me that he was, unless I may have missed, but I thought you and he were going to have a ... He said, "I've asked Jeffrey, sort of once again, if he would pose."
EPSTEIN: I [don’t] like the word “pose” ... but it's okay.
WARD: Okay. Well, (Inaudible) whatever he said. You know, “pose pictures.” (Overlap)
EPSTEIN: He (Inaudible)
WARD: So he said to me, "Vicky, I'm waiting to hear back from him." So that was the last that ...
EPSTEIN: Yeah, I'm going to go see him.
WARD: Fine. And then I'm waiting for, to get the galley back, the updated galley with all the questions the fact-checkers will have, and notes legal will have. And then I'll need to run through whatever they have with you. And I'm hoping that I will either get that this afternoon or very first-thing tomorrow morning.
EPSTEIN: So Graydon won't have it either then?
EPSTEIN: When I go see him?
WARD: When do you see ... I don't know when you're seeing him.
EPSTEIN: About 3:30.
WARD: No. He won't. But he has, you know, but obviously he's the editor. I mean he would have read the first draft of the piece.
EPSTEIN: Right. What I'm hoping to do because Graydon really wants me to do these photos with [REDACTED], is that his name?
WARD: [REDACTED], yeah.
EPSTEIN: And I really am not opposed to it necessarily. The only questions I had was how you were going to handle the Farmer sisters, the Hoffenberg issue and this [REDACTED] property thing. ……
WARD: The Farmer things I mean I think I sort of went over it with you and I got ... [REDACTED] called me up. And I mean I don't know what the fact-checkers or what legal has (Inaudible) to what I asked you. I'll know when I ...
EPSTEIN: Well, just the mention of a 16-year-old girl doesn't ... I don't know in sort of what context ... My sense is that people read it, it carries the wrong impression. I don't see what it adds to the piece. And that makes me unhappy. That was one of the things, Vicky. I think that I didn't understand the point of that part of it.
WARD: Well, ask Graydon what he feels. Okay?
WARD: And then have him ... again, I haven't had ... I mean, I went over with you—I think I asked you about the chronology, didn't I?
EPSTEIN: I think so.
WARD: You know, because I just wasn't ...
EPSTEIN: You asked me if I had anything to do with bilking the insurance company. When I told Graydon that, he said you never said that. I said, "Yes, she did."
WARD: Well, yeah, but then you (Inaudible). I'm sitting here just looking at all these different ... You know, I have press kit cuttings and I'm looking at what Hoffenberg went down for. So obviously, and because you ... you know, it's just, it was just a ... the only reason ...
EPSTEIN: I don't mind. Again, I just want to know how it's—I can't sit for any photo is that ...
WARD: No, I completely understand that, Jeffrey. But (Inaudible). I was sitting there, surrounded by court documents.
EPSTEIN: I don't mind.
WARD: And so it was just like a no-brainer of a question for me was that the (Inaudible) public record that you handled the Pan Am and Emory[?] bids, which you said, Absolutely. I think you said it was a lot of fun or whatever.
WARD: But when you read through the Hoffenberg court documents, and you read through the press clippings, part of ... I mean it was a very small part of what he went down for ...
EPSTEIN: Fraud. (Laughs)
WARD: ... yes. Yeah. So, no, no, well, look. But it was to do with those ... so that's why I just feel—I suddenly thought, Well, did you know? Did you have any inkling at the time when you were doing business with him? But we haven't got into, you know, this was a new area. I hadn't sort of ... we hadn't talked about it before.
EPSTEIN: That's what I'm saying. So how is it written, or do you want to tell me tomorrow how it's written?
WARD: Well, I have got the galleys.
EPSTEIN: But you think that Graydon will have some of them?
WARD: Well, Graydon is the same as me. He read the first draft.
EPSTEIN: So tell me though how you see the 16-year old, the girl with the 16-year old sister, part of ...
WARD: Well, sorry?
EPSTEIN: How does [sic] the Farmer sisters fit into your story?
WARD: The Farmer sisters fit into your story because they were two people that you set out to help. That's my understanding of it. Or you certainly ...
WARD: ... set out to help Maria. You gave her a job; she was hard up. You basically were helping her along. And somewhere along the road, she obviously ... I think I said to you the word is she felt uncomfortable.
EPSTEIN: Yes. Well ...
WARD: So it's not, believe me, and you can ask Graydon this, it is not a big part of the piece.
EPSTEIN: But why does it have any part of the piece? That's what I don't understand.
WARD: Because they're examples of two people—well, number one, you said to me that you helped students. So her sister was someone that you helped. My understanding was that you helped her with her resume. And you helped her not only that, you helped her go get into an Ivy League school. And number two, we have lots of examples of you helping, funding big-league scientists but this is an example of how people who are not-so-famous, big-league people.
EPSTEIN: Right. But this example was someone who said she felt (Inaudible). I mean there are so many examples of people who, you know, again—I am a serious person, so I want to know how that part reads. So I should talk to Graydon about it?
WARD: Yep. Ask Graydon.
After that meeting, I received a package from Jeffrey which he claimed contained a flirtatious “thank you” letter from Maria, which was supposed to undermine her credibility, and alleged typed correspondence about Annie from Janice, the Farmer sisters’ mother, which was supposed to show that all his meetings with Annie were above-board. There was also a photocopy of a photograph of a nude female torso. Maria told me the letter was a fake. As did her mother. I emailed their denials to Carter, who responded, “So what does this all mean?” And then I spoke to Carter:
WARD: Did you get my message from Punch? [Graydon’s assistant]
CARTER: Yeah, what did it say? It said ...
WARD: He told me, and I talked to Robert [Vanity Fair’s legal affairs editor] this morning ... I was just thinking overnight ... He [Epstein] told me that he had checked his files ... He had correspondence with Maria Farmer's mother about when Annie Farmer came to stay, and I asked the mother ... She said she didn't have any correspondence from him. So ...
CARTER: He could be telling the truth.
CARTER: He could be telling the truth.
WARD: I ... yeah, right? Because he's told it so often before?
CARTER: Well, you know, I don't know.
WARD: Graydon, I know. I know for some reason you always give him the benefit of the doubt.
CARTER: I'm a very trusting person.
WARD: Yeah, you're ... you? (Laughs) You're (Overlap/Inaudible)
CARTER: I'm Canadian.
WARD: Yeah, you're (Inaudible) ... I know. I said to Doug, Graydon always sees the best in everyone. I see the worst (Overlap/Inaudible).
CARTER: I know, yeah, I know.
WARD: I'm the complete opposite. I don't trust anybody until they win me over. You trust everyone until they (Overlap/Inaudible). (Laughs)
CARTER: Yeah. I know. Until they fuck me. I know.
WARD: I've noticed that actually.
CARTER: I know. I know. (Laughter) It's really true. I know. Good combination.
CARTER: Good combination.
WARD: Yeah. Stick around. Exactly. (Laughter) So that was ... Give me[?] the charts[?] ... I would love to see that correspondence with Mrs. Farmer.
CARTER: Good. Okay.
WARD: I mean I think the way I see it is that ... Obviously I've dealt with this man ad nauseam, and so there are so many inconsistencies of what he's told me, that that's why I take so much umbrage with him. Little things. I mean even telling me ... I come back ... Why tell me what the name of his island, and then tell me the size of his homes ... is like quadrupled ... and when he says they're ... As times goes by, his story keeps changing. The more I find out, the more he has to change his story. You know, when he met Leslie Wexner, when he started working for Leslie Wexner.
CARTER: Well, two people you should talk to might be Donald Trump—
WARD: Yeah, but Donald Trump ...
CARTER: Is he a friend of his?
CARTER: [REDACTED] ... have you ever spoken to [REDACTED]?
WARD: Yeah, I called [REDACTED]. He doesn't want to talk.
CARTER: Oh, right, because he hates him now.
WARD: He does hate him.
WARD: Do you know what?
CARTER: Yes, I know for a fact.
WARD: I mean I know that. The reason [REDACTED] hates him is he did him out of some money.
WARD: He introduced him to Wexner.
WARD: And he said could I take a cut? And then Jeffrey never gave it to him.
WARD: I just ... I spoke off the record to the guy ... the person who runs Mrs. [REDACTED]'s estate, and that whole (Inaudible) side of thing ... and this guy was the former general managing partner of [REDACTED], and he said Jeffrey's a very arrogant nasty person. But he wasn't going to go into whether or not there was anything about the [REDACTED] estate, which was why he ... he wasn't going to go there.
WARD: So and little ... For example, even on the letter he wrote to you, claiming that I had said all of those things.
CARTER: We know that. I know. He might have remembered it differently. Or he didn't.
WARD: No! But you don't say that Vicky—
CARTER: You think he did[?]?
WARD: —that Vicky Ward claimed ... pointed out that [REDACTED] was the criminal ... You know, you don't say things like that if they're not true. You know? Vicky Ward ... and then she goes "Aha!"
CARTER: Yeah, I know.
WARD: And it's just lies!
WARD: And the thing is this. This is what he's done before. I mean, I feel so sorry for the guy who got done out of his savings ... $450,000 ... He lied in court. And you know, all the way along, people have said the same thing about this man.
CARTER: That he's a liar.
WARD: That he's an absolute pathological liar. And he would ... and he's not even ... The funny thing is he's not even that clever about it. Because to say to me ... he has no idea ... and there's a massive sort of underestimation of me to say to me, "You know what Vicky? I've never talked to the ... had any dealings with the people in the insurance companies in Chicago over the whole Hoffenberg business." Because all I have to do is call someone up and prove him wrong.
WARD: All I have to do.
CARTER: Well, that's the sign of megalomania. The closer the ... It's funny, because (Laughs) (Inaudible) I would say the sign of our insanity is the closer you think you might be being caught to when you will tell the lie ... is the sign of insanity. So if you think you won't be caught for 20 years, that's one thing, but if you think you'll be caught in 15 minutes and you still lie, it's really insane.
WARD: Or he just doesn't care. You know, or it's just too ... Or what I'm partly thinking is that he's just ... What I've got is just so small fry compared to what the ... the rest of where he is.
CARTER: Right. That's true.
WARD: But it's just ... And to be fair, there's nothing ... I mean he's not going to go to jail for anything in this piece ... he's not going to lose anything. The more I think about it, you know, [REDACTED] I'm damned sure knows everything that's in here. And so you know, he just obviously he'll do everything stop the piece. Or to change the piece. But you know, the more I talk to people who know him really well, they say, Listen, once the piece goes, he's the last person in the world who's gonna sue. The last person in the world who wants his dirty laundry—
CARTER: Because he can't. Right. Have you spoken to [REDACTED] or [REDACTED]?
WARD: No, I spoke to someone called [REDACTED].
CARTER: No. Okay. That might[?] not[?] check[?]. Okay, well he's going to call me today, so I'll call you after that. I've got another story for you.
WARD: Not [REDACTED]?
CARTER: No, no.
WARD: I did speak to [REDACTED]. He won't be interviewed. …
CARTER: And I'll check in later after Jeffrey Epstein calls me.
WARD: Lucky you.
CARTER: Yeah, thanks. Bye.
WARD: All right. Bye.
Was that the moment that Carter decided to drop the Farmers? My email correspondence and transcripts show that the Farmers were in my story until January 6th—at the eleventh hour before we were to go to press. In fact, Vanity Fair was even looking for artwork of the Farmers. But former editors at Vanity Fair apparently told the New Yorker that they’d been cut long before. It took me ages to go back into my computer and laboriously piece together from all the data points what the ultimate timeline was. (That’s the timeline about which Carter admitted to the Chotiner he had been mistaken.)
I knew back then that something seemed seriously “off” with Epstein, which is the whole reason I wanted to include these allegations in my original article, but I had no idea then that the Farmers were just the tip of this horrific iceberg. I only had Maria and Annie and what they told me. I wish I had found another victim in 2003. I wish I had been able to establish as part of the pattern. But these women were hard to find because they were, understandably, terrified to speak up. That’s why I think that what the Farmers did and said was even braver. This was the same at which Virginia Giuffre was fleeing to Thailand, and Jennifer Araoz was being abused, only I wouldn’t meet her for many years later, and so many others.
Twenty years ago, I battled a mountain of sexism at the top of Vanity Fair to get Maria and Annie Farmer into the magazine. It wasn’t just the fact that four men—Carter, my editor, Vanity Fair’s head of legal affairs, and the head of research—were the ultimate adjudicators of this piece that was the problem. Carter himself behaved inappropriately. He says no one trusted me? How does he think I felt when, just a few months in to me working there, he decided to burden me with the details of his private life that involved a former employee, who happened to be a friend of mine? And how did he think I felt during years of being on the receiving end of critical remarks about my clothes (“mutton dressed as lamb”), my face (“save the Botox for when you need it”), and my marriage?
Unfortunately, it seems, that the same misogyny is prevalent at the top of Conde Nast today. “Bash the woman” is the message, rather than report the inconvenient facts. The same patriarchy that victimized and tortured these women is once again circling the wagons to protect itself. Interestingly, when my Audible editor Martha Little (a woman) reached out to Carter three times earlier this year for a response to my podcast, he never answered. But I was told that when a male producer at Discovery reached out to him, saying he was working with me, Carter responded, “You poor thing.”
Need I say more?
So, there it all is. My only objective in releasing all this to be completely transparent, because so much harmful misinformation is now in the ether. And, in reading this, I ask you: Is Chotiner’s piece fair or not fair? Representative of what the New Yorker should be? You decide.
Vicky...I found my way to you through the Audible podcast series. From the elevation and distance to New York, I can clearly see what the New Yorker got wrong in answer to your question: "what is the reason for their recent Chotiner article?" Simple ... to rehabilitate the reputation of Carter. I always ask if the motivation of someone is what they say, then, how would they behave. If Carter wanted to "get the facts" straight in pulling the Farmer part of the story, then, he could have sat down with you and explained his concerns. He did not do that because he felt the pressure from Epstein et al was more important to him. Now he has been fully exposed when more people are interested in the story, he wants a hit piece on you. Vicky, don't worry what people think that don't know you. Hang in there.
Between finding you and Jessica and the great pieces you both write here on sub stack. I don’t think I ever have to waste my money on Vanity Fair ever again.