MAGA Conspiracy World Is Flooding the Zone With Epstein Garbage

Four years after sex offender Jeffrey Epstein‘s suicide in jail, far-right conspiracy theorists remain enamored with the notion that he remains the key to proving that prominent Democrats comprise a secret pedophile cabal. And, with court documents related to a civil case against his human trafficking co-conspirator Ghislaine Maxwell starting to be unsealed Wednesday, many believe their political enemies are about to feel the sting of justice.

The material comes from a settled 2015 defamation suit brought against Maxwell by Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre, with some mentioning public figures Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Alan Dershowitz, Bill Gates, Prince Andrew, and others. But quite a few names in the papers have until now remained redacted (The individuals are anonymously referred to as numbered John and Jane Does.) Conservative misinformation peddlers have predicted that the release of those names will vindicate their most outlandish claims of a nefarious global plot that can only be put to an end by the increasingly melded MAGA and QAnon conspiracist movements.

Though the true extent of what we may learn from the documents is not yet known — and more may be released in the coming days — right-wing truthers seem to have already overhyped their importance, keeping followers engaged with breathless nonsense during the wait for what they promised were earth-shattering revelations. Each hour that passed without an actual update was another opportunity to sow false leads and general distrust. For one thing, while Giuffre settled a separate sexual abuse suit against Prince Andrew, the appearance of one’s name in the Maxwell case evidence is not in itself an indication of criminal wrongdoing; some of the individuals whose identities have been protected so far are instead alleged victims of sexual abuse.

In the lead-up to the court filings, bogus Epstein content cluttered X/Twitter, now a cesspool of right-wing fake news thanks to Elon Musk. Quite a few posts purported to share images of “Epstein’s Client List,” a term that has trended intermittently on the platform in recent days even though it’s a grossly inaccurate description of what the documents are. These unsourced, spurious, and typo-ridden lists named well-known Democrats and liberal critics of Trump in the entertainment world as visitors to Epstein’s private island in the Caribbean. At the same time, notorious QAnon promoters such as Liz Crokin and popular Trump fan accounts pushed the line that Trump had actually been a crucial player in Epstein’s exposure and 2019 arrest, trying to downplay the heavily documented long-term friendship between the two men, which reportedly ended in 2004. (Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was among those who retweeted Crokin’s dubious defense of Trump.)

After Tuesday came and went without anything to slake their thirst for the genuine records — though self-styled independent “journalists” continued to share misleading links to what they apparently believed were the unsealed documents — conspiracists on Wednesday wildly speculated as to the cause of the delay. Donald Trump Jr., for his part, incorrectly predicted that the names would never come out. Some misinterpreted a court order noting that Doe 107’s name would be kept under seal until at least Jan. 22 as proof that one person was holding up the process for fear of being named as an associate of Epstein’s; in fact, as a previous court filing shows, Doe 107 is an alleged victim and fearful for her safety in her culturally conservative country of residence if her identity is revealed.

That didn’t stop certain right-wingers from smearing her as, to take one example, a “super-powerful FEMALE PEDOPHILE,” or baselessly suggest that she might be anyone from Oprah Winfrey to Angelina Jolie. Meanwhile, in a bizarre livestream Wednesday afternoon, Dershowitz tried to change the subject to Israel and Hamas.

Once some actual files dropped on Wednesday evening, far-right commentators looked to spin them in ways favorable to Republicans and Trump in particular. YouTuber and serial plagiarist Benny Johnson extracted two snippets of witness testimony to declare that the trove of documents “clear [Donald Trump] of any wrongdoing.” Pizzagate promoter Jack Posobiec made a similar claim, as did the MAGA shitposting king known as @Catturd2. Of course, two witnesses saying they never saw Trump on Epstein’s properties proves nothing conclusive about their relationship, which reportedly endured from the 1980s until the mid-2000s, when the pair became rival bidders on a Palm Beach estate. Trump was indeed a notable guest at Epstein’s homes until then.

Even after people began combing through the documents, high-profile conspiracists were looking to bigger, better, and far less verifiable stories. Alex Jones, reinstated on X by Musk in December after a formerly permanent suspension, warned that the supposed Epstein client list and flight logs for his private jet had “distracted” the American public from what he described as a cache of video data showing Epstein’s abuse of children — suppressed by President Joe Biden‘s Department of Justice and the FBI, presumably to protect powerful individuals. But with former presidents already implicated, that ship would seem to have sailed, and there’s no reason to believe that InfoWars has special insight into the evidence the feds collected on Epstein’s trafficking ring.

Another strain of malicious fake news piggybacked on a feud between late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel and NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers. On Tuesday, Kimmel threatened to sue Rodgers for casually implying on ESPN that he would be among those names revealed in the unredacted papers. On Wednesday, right-wing trolls circulated bogus images of a made-up deposition from the Giuffre case in which a fake witness claims to have had sex with Kimmel at Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion. (Likewise on the Hollywood celebrity side, a tweet falsely claiming director Steven Spielberg‘s intention to “leave the United States if the Epstein Client List is released” made the rounds on pro-Trump sites.)

The most salacious concrete detail that the right seized upon in the unredacted documents was testimony in which accuser Johanna Sjoberg recalled Epstein telling her that “[Bill] Clinton likes them young, referring to girls.” Which, though disturbing, neatly conforms to accusations that conservatives have leveled at the former president for years, if not decades. A few conservative figures, foreseeing no real bombshells or hope for revenge against elites, sought to prepare their audience for disappointment before the files came out. Right-wing comedian and commentator Tim Young tweeted on Tuesday, “Not to ruin it for you… but even if big names are named on Jeffrey Epstein’s list… NOTHING will happen to them.” Amid all this bullshit, it was a rare bit of truth-telling.