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In August 2017, I received an email from publicist Masha Drokova asking whether I wanted to interview her client, Jeffrey Epstein.
“I saw your piece on [President Donald] Trump’s science budget,” she wrote, referring to a story on the president’s proposed massive cuts to research in his 2018 budget request to Congress. “Jeffrey has an interesting perspective on what it will take to fill the gaps. … Would you like to speak with him next week?”
Talk - Financier - Sex - Offender - Editors
Why would Science talk to a shadowy financier and convicted sex offender? I queried my editors. “How strange,” one said. “Wonder why he is seeking press now?” another asked.
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Epstein - Interview - Story - Interview - Quotes
Epstein began the 80-minute interview by asking me to agree, if we wrote a story based on the interview, not to use any quotes without first getting his permission. “I have lots of detractors,” he said, “so certain things phrased the wrong way could make trouble for you and I.” I agreed to his terms.
Now, 2 years later, a more complete picture of Epstein’s alleged predations has emerged, and last month the disgraced financier hanged himself in jail after being arrested on federal charges of sex trafficking. My editors and I concluded that given Epstein’s death and the intense interest in his support of science, we could quote him in this story. What follows are Epstein’s views on scientific philanthropy and the experiences of a few of the many scientists drawn into his orbit.
“Money I understand”
In the interview, Epstein was by turns modest—“I’m not more than a hobbyist in science”—and boastful—“but money I understand, [and] I’m a pretty good mathematician.” He was eager to discuss his philosophy of giving and how science works. However, some of those views struck me as contradictory, and others were outdated or discredited.
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