Split Decision: Networks Mention But Downplay Bill Clinton in Epstein Document Dumps

Despite what some might have predicted, the major broadcast networks have been covering the first two dumps of previously-sealed documents relating to serial sexual criminal Jeffrey Epstein’s life of ruin and escapades alongside the rich and famous. As for how they did between Thursday morning and Friday morning, it was truly a mixed bag for ABC, CBS, and NBC in terms of highlighting former President Bill Clinton’s ties to Epstein.

ABC’s flagship newscasts — Good Morning America (GMA) and World News Tonight — both refused to mention a disturbing claim leveled by former Epstein associate Johanna Sjoberg that Epstein had once told her that “Clinton likes them young, referring to girls.”

Instead, senior investigative correspondent Aaron Katersky downplayed the documents on GMA as containing information that’s “been known before” aside from “new details about an old groping accusation against Prince Andrew and an effort to depose former President Bill Clinton.”

Katersky added (which was repeated in the show’s second hour) (click “expand”):

This morning, newly unsealed court records reinforce the association of presidents — even the king of pop — with Jeffrey Epstein, the sex offender who killed himself in a New York City jail while awaiting trial. The documents were part of a long-settled definition lawsuit, one of Epstein’s victims — Virginia Giuffre — filed against his former paramore, Ghislaine Maxwell. The documents include arguments by Giuffre’s lawyers who sought testimony from former President Bill Clinton, calling him “a key person who can provide information about his close relationship with [Maxwell] and Mr. Epstein.” 

Giuffre never accused Clinton of wrongdoing, but claimed she had dinner with him on Epstein’s private Caribbean island. Maxwell called that a lie and the documents show her attorney said, “each and every part of plaintiff’s claims regarding President Clinton has conclusively been proven false.” Clinton was never deposed. After Epstein’s arrest, his spokesman denied Clinton was ever on the island. After Giuffre’s allegations became public, the documents also show Epstein emailed Maxwell, seeming to offer advice. “You can issue a reward to any of Virginia’s friends, [acquaintances], or family to come forward and help prove her allegations are false. The strongest is that Clinton dinner.”

He returned for World News Tonight, but both he and anchor David Muir only invoked Clinton as part of a wider list of celebrities in the documents. 

That said, he was the only one to mention documents revealed Epstein victim Virginia “Giuffre made allegations claiming Maxwell and Epstein directed her to have sex with powerful men, like former Senator George Mitchell, former Ambassador Bill Richardson,” and “Hyatt hotel chairman Tom Pritzker,” but “[a]ll of the men have denied it.”

Katersky somewhat redeemed himself on Friday’s GMA as he was the only one to bring up Clinton and how the second dump contained an allegation he threatened Vanity Fair to not publish stories critical of Epstein (click “expand”):

Overnight, more Jeffrey Epstein-related documents were unsealed following a first batch that included names of famous people associated in some way with Epstein, including the actor Kevin Spacey, magician David Copperfield, supermodel Naomi Campbell, and former Presidents Trump and Clinton, none accused of wrongdoing.

(….)

In a 2011 e-mail, Giuffre talked to Churcher about selling this now notorious photo of her and Prince Andrew to Vanity Fair: “What do you think a good price to sell this to VF should be?” The same year, Giuffre made the unsubstantiated claim former President Clinton had previously threatened the magazine over a story about Epstein: “Clinton walked into VF and threatened for them not to sex-trafficking articles about his good friend, J.E.” Those involved have long denied it, and Vanity Fair’s editor at the time told The Telegraph, “This categorically did not happen.”

Friday’s CBS Mornings ignored the Epstein documents completely, but had full stories on Thursday’s CBS Mornings and CBS Evening News. On both, correspondent Nancy Chen spent a few sentences on Clinton, including the “young…girls” claim.

NBC’s Today and Nightly News had senior Justice correspondent Laura Jarrett (who’s the daughter of Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett) on the case and she admirably brought up Clinton Thursday, but not Friday. She also made sure to bring up claims about Trump being an Epstein acquaintance (click “expand”):

JARRETT [on Today]: The more than 900 pages of materials previously deemed confidential includes references to familiar names. from politicians to celebrities, many of them previously linked to Epstein before his suicide in 2019. Former President Bill Clinton and Donald Trump mentioned in deposition transcripts — both have denied any wrongdoing. In one, a woman who once worked for Epstein recalled he spoke to her about Clinton, saying Epstein told her one time, “that Clinton likes them young, referring to girls.” A spokesman for Clinton referred NBC News to a prior statement from 2019, saying he had not spoken to Epstein in over a decade and was unaware of Epstein’s crimes. The same woman says Epstein once suggested calling Trump for an outing in Atlantic City.

(….)

JARRETT [on Today]: The records including deposition transcripts previously kept underwraps. In one, a woman spoke to her about former president bill Clinton, telling her “that Clinton likes them young, referring to girls.” Now, Clinton has not been accused of any wrongdoing. And a spokesman says he was unaware of Epstein’s crimes. The same woman says in these records that Epstein once suggested calling Donald Trump for an outing in Atlantic City. The former President has said that he hasn’t spoken to Epstein for years, since before his death.

(….)

JARRETT [on NBC Nightly News]: Questions have remained about his connections. And, so, The Miami Herald successfully persuaded a federal judge to unseal years worth of court papers, including key deposition transcripts and lengthy testimony from Johanna Sjoberg, a woman who once worked for Epstein. Sjoberg describing one conversation with Epstein about former President Bill Clinton, recalling Epstein told her, “Clinton likes them young, referring to girls.” Clinton has not been accused of any wrongdoing, and a Clinton spokesperson pointed NBC News to a past statement denying knowledge of Epstein’s crimes. Sjoberg also recalled the trip to Atlantic City, saying Epstein said he “could call up Mr. Trump.” She responded “no” when asked if she ever had sexual contact with the former president. And Mr. Trump has denied having a close relationship with Epstein over the years and is not accused of any wrongdoing in the documents.

DONALD TRUMP [in 2019]: He was a fixture in Palm Beach. I had a falling out with him a long time ago.

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