How Jeffrey Epstein Captivated Harvard

How Jeffrey Epstein Captivated Harvard

How Jeffrey Epstein Captivated Harvard

And how the university has yet to give a full accounting.

Facebook
Twitter
Email
Flipboard
Pocket

As the steady drip of revelations over the past few months shows, Jeffrey Epstein’s ties to intellectual, cultural, and financial luminaries were much more extensive than previously known. For years after Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution, he socialized with Bill Gates, Woody Allen, Noam Chomsky, Leon Botstein, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, private equity billionaire Leon Black, LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman, CIA director William Burns, and Lawrence Summers.

According to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal, Summers—a former president of Harvard and the current Charles W. Eliot University Professor and director of the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School—had more than a dozen meetings scheduled with Epstein from 2013 to 2016. In April 2014, Summers sent Epstein an e-mail seeking “small scale philanthropy advice” regarding his wife, Elisa New, a professor of English at Harvard. “My life will be better if i raise $1m for Lisa,” he wrote. “Mostly it will go to make a pbs series and for teacher training. Ideas?”

Summers invited Epstein to dinner, and they made plans to meet at a restaurant in the Boston suburb of Brookline. In 2016, a foundation linked to Epstein donated $110,000 to New’s nonprofit, which produced video content about poetry. After Epstein’s second arrest, in 2019, New—deeply regretting the grant—made a contribution in excess of that amount to an organization working against sex trafficking.

The Summers-Epstein relationship opens a window into the interlocking of intellectual and financial elites in our era of bloated capital accumulation. The perks and privileges that the superrich can offer make their company and resources hard to resist. Top universities, in turn, entice the tycoon class with a mix of academic prestige, intellectual stimulation, and social legitimation. And no university has more to offer in this regard than Harvard. The school has come to have a mesmerizing effect on the American public, especially its most mercantile tier, for which it is a honeypot.

Though Epstein’s ties to Harvard have received considerable attention, a full narrative account shows how this singularly depraved individual without a college degree was able, by using a mix of philanthropy, charm, and personal favors, to captivate the nation’s top institution of higher learning, thus helping to burnish his image and conceal his long history of predatory behavior.

Larry Summers’s relationship with Epstein went back to at least 1998, when his name first appears in Epstein’s flight logs. Epstein’s fleet included four helicopters, a Gulfstream jet, a twin-engine Cessna, and a Boeing 727. The latter became known as the “Lolita Express” for its role in ferrying underage girls between his residences: a townhouse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side; a mansion in Palm Beach, Fla.; a ranch in New Mexico; and the island of Little St. James in the US Virgin Islands, which he owned. At all of these sites, Epstein recruited, seduced, and coerced young girls to perform sexual acts with him and others. According to the flight logs, on September 19, 1998, Summers, who was then serving as US deputy treasury secretary, flew on Epstein’s Boeing 727 from Aspen, Colo., to Dulles Airport.

Summers’s relationship with Epstein would continue after he became president of Harvard in July 2001. Summers worried that the university was missing out on the great tech revolution that Stanford had done so much to promote and from which it was so handsomely profiting. Beginning in the late 1980s, Harvard had acquired more than 50 acres of land across the Charles River in Allston, a working-class section of Boston. Summers envisioned a new campus there with 10 million square feet of facilities to create “the Harvard of the 21st century.”

As part of that vision, Summers encouraged Steven Pinker, a cognitive psychologist at MIT, to move to Harvard. Pinker shared Summers’s delight in questioning liberal pieties. In 2002, he had published The Blank Slate, which argued—contrary to the prevailing “dogma” in the academy—that genes and heredity play a significant part in shaping social roles and institutions. In 2003, Pinker joined Harvard’s psychology department, filling a newly created Mind Brain Behavior chair.

Another consequential hire was Martin Nowak, a professor of biology and mathematics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Nowak was applying math to questions about evolution in a quest to develop equations to explain the unfolding of natural selection and the biological basis of human cooperation. In 1999, he was introduced to Epstein by a Princeton trustee, and over the next three years Epstein would provide $500,000 to support his research. He also invited Nowak to visit him on Little St. James—“a luxury retreat with patina-finished roofs, and a mile-long beach dotted with palm trees,” as Nowak wrote in SuperCooperators, an account of his scientific work published in 2011. “Jeffrey was the perfect host,” he observed. After Nowak asked a casual question about what it was like to dive in the clear waters around the island, a scuba instructor showed up the next day. On the last day of Nowak’s visit, Epstein told him that he would build an institute for him.

That institute would be at Harvard. As a mathematical biologist, Nowak was doing the type of interdisciplinary work that Larry Summers admired, and in 2002 Summers arranged a joint appointment for him in the departments of mathematics and of organismic and evolutionary biology. The following year, Summers received a proposal from Epstein and Benedict Gross, a math professor at Harvard, to establish a Program for Evolutionary Dynamics (PED) under Nowak’s direction, and after a series of negotiations between Summers and Epstein, it became a reality.

In 2003, Epstein contributed $6.5 million to the program, enabling it to rent the top floor of a sleek new office building at One Brattle Square, near Harvard Square. Nowak was joined, as he wrote, “by a hand-picked group of crack mathematicians, biologists, or indeed anyone who wanted to explore the remarkable power of cooperation” and other “cool problems” in what was “an academic paradise.” Epstein had an office available for his use there.

At Harvard as elsewhere, administrators maintain that donors have no say over who gets hired or what gets researched, but the superrich do not generally subsidize programs that do not interest them, and the PED would probably not have existed without Epstein’s millions. His funds thus helped promote a current of thought that emphasized the role that genes and heredity play in determining human behavior and that promoted the idea that the existing order is the natural result of evolutionary selection and adaptation, with such invidious influences as racism, inequality, and inherited privilege pushed to the margins.

Nowak began collaborating with Steven Pinker on projects dealing with the evolution of language, and both attended the talks, seminars, and meals that Epstein hosted at Nowak’s office. In his book, Nowak quotes a graduate student as joking that “PED” could stand for “party every day.” The circle around Epstein in these years included law professor Alan Dershowitz; psychology department chair Stephen Kosslyn; Henry Rosovsky, a longtime economics professor who had served as both the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Harvard Corporation, the university’s governing board; David Gergen, a veteran presidential adviser who was then a professor at the Kennedy School; and Summers.

A 2003 feature about Epstein in The Harvard Crimson captures in real time the success he had in beguiling the Harvard professoriat. Interested in more “than the large collection of planes, trains and automobiles which his fortune has allowed him to amass,” Epstein, the Crimson reported, “has found Harvard the perfect staging ground for his intellectual pursuits.” Dershowitz, Kosslyn, and Rosovsky “each herald Epstein’s keen intelligence, sharp wit and his uncommon interest in the sciences.”

According to the article, Rosovsky was Epstein’s oldest friend in the bunch. They had been introduced by their mutual friend Leslie Wexner, the billionaire founder of Limited Brands, whose empire would eventually include Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works. For nearly two decades, Wexner gave Epstein sweeping powers over his finances and philanthropy (until breaking with him about 18 months after his first arrest). Wexner himself became a major benefactor of the Kennedy School, giving more than $42 million over the years, and both a building and a fellowship for visiting Israelis were named after him. Together, Epstein, Wexner, and two other donors helped raise $2 million to build a new home for Harvard Hillel, a Jewish student center, which was named after Rosovsky.

Dershowitz first met Epstein in the mid-1990s on Martha’s Vineyard. Not long after, Epstein flew him to New Albany, Ohio, where Wexner was throwing himself a 59th birthday party on his 300-acre estate. Dershowitz told the Crimson that “Jeffrey has so much money that you can’t give him anything. The only gift you can give him is interesting people, and someone gave me to him as a gift.” Epstein, he added, “has a very probing, inquiring mind” and was “a real outsider” who would “challenge the current ways of thinking.” Dershowitz said Epstein was the only person outside of his immediate family to whom he sent his book manuscripts before publication.

In the late 1990s, Dershowitz told me, when he was in Israel researching his book The Genesis of Justice, he received a call from Epstein, who was then in Paris. Epstein said he had never been to Israel and asked Dershowitz to arrange a lunch with a group of the smartest people in the country. Dershowitz did organize the meal, in Jerusalem; Epstein flew in for it, then left. Among the invitees was Aharon Barak, the former president of Israel’s Supreme Court (though it’s unclear if he actually attended).

According to Dershowitz, the sessions at One Brattle Square were serious affairs. “People from all over the university would come,” he said. The attendees included Howard Gardner, the prominent cognitive psychologist and educator. Epstein also held dinners at his townhouse for physicists and other scientists, Dershowitz said, and he attended at least one of them. (Dershowitz’s name appears 12 times in Epstein’s flight logs.)

According to the Crimson, Epstein had “a special connection” with Summers. He “likes Larry Summers a lot,” Dershowitz told the paper. “He speaks well of Larry, and I think he admires Larry’s economic thinking.” Summers is listed in Epstein’s flight logs as having traveled on his planes three times while he was president of Harvard, including a flight (with Elisa New) on December 21, 2005, to Charlotte Amalie, the capital of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, en route to Little St. James.

Summers’s immersion in this world would prove fateful for his career at Harvard. In January 2005, he gave his now-infamous talk on diversity and gender in the academy and the underrepresentation of women faculty in math, science, and engineering. Summers acknowledged the special barriers that women in all high-level jobs face due to responsibilities linked to marriage and child-rearing. But he dismissed the importance of discriminatory hiring practices, arguing that in the “highly competitive academic marketplace,” a qualified candidate rejected by one department would be quickly hired by another. In the case of science and engineering, he added, a more important factor was probably “issues of intrinsic aptitude” and “the variability of aptitude.”

In making this case, Summers was drawing on Pinker’s The Blank Slate, which highlighted studies that claimed to find a biological basis for the differences between men and women in both ability and interest in such areas as engineering and science—an outlook reinforced by the work being done at the PED. In the uproar that followed, Summers profusely apologized for his remarks and promised to take concrete steps to increase the number of women faculty at Harvard. But the damage was done, and the incident—compounded by other sources of faculty discontent—led Summers to resign as Harvard’s president on February 21, 2006.

Only later would it become apparent why Epstein was so interested in funding Nowak’s work on evolution and genetics: As The New York Times reported, he hoped to seed the human race with his DNA by impregnating women at his ranch in New Mexico. That reflected his broader aspiration to use techniques like genetic engineering and artificial intelligence to select certain traits to produce superior human beings—a modern-day version of eugenics and its idea of controlled breeding. And Epstein had managed to enlist Harvard in that enterprise.

Throughout this period, Epstein’s Harvard associates had little way of knowing of his sexual crimes. Epstein’s secret life did not begin to surface until March 2005, when the stepmother of a 14-year-old girl who had been paid by him to give him sexualized massages took her to the Palm Beach police. That set off a 13-month probe during which investigators searched Epstein’s home, found two hidden cameras and the photos of many girls, and spoke to numerous victims who seemed credible—some of them under 16.

According to the lead detective on the case, “it all took a turn” after Alan Dershowitz got involved. As soon as Epstein learned that he was being investigated, he called the law professor and asked him to join his defense. At the same time that Epstein was being investigated, Dershowitz and his family—visiting southern Florida to see his granddaughter play in a soccer tournament—stayed at Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion. Dershowitz became part of a seven-person legal team that included former special prosecutor Kenneth Starr. He also helped carry out a campaign to discredit Epstein’s accusers, with investigators scouring their social media sites for references to simulated sex, drinking, and drugs, then sharing their findings with state prosecutors.

Epstein was arrested on July 24, 2006, then released on bail. Convening a grand jury, the prosecutors presented evidence from only two victims, and the jurors returned a single charge of felony solicitation of prostitution. Appalled by such leniency, the Palm Beach police alerted the FBI, which began its own investigation; over 14 months, it compiled reports on 34 minors who alleged sexual abuse by Epstein. The resulting 53-page federal indictment could have resulted in a life sentence. But Dershowitz and the other Epstein lawyers aggressively worked the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, then under the direction of Alexander Acosta. Acosta brokered an agreement by which federal prosecutors dropped their indictment in return for Epstein’s pleading guilty to two state felony charges for solicitation of prostitution, one involving a minor. On June 30, 2008, Epstein was sentenced to 18 months in the county jail. In the end, he served only 13 months. After his release in July 2009, however, he was required to register as a Level 3 sex offender in Florida and New York, indicating a high risk of a repeat offense.

On July 1, 2007, Drew Faust took over as Harvard’s president. Reviewing Epstein’s case, she barred the university from receiving any more funds from him. But Harvard said it would not return any of the money he had already given. And, remarkably, Epstein was permitted to resume his activities at the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics. Between 2010 and 2018, it is likely that he visited the PED offices more than 40 times. Epstein usually gave Nowak the names of the academics he wanted to meet, and they were invited to One Brattle Square. On most visits, he was accompanied by young women in their 20s, who served as his assistants. It was all part of Epstein’s campaign to rehabilitate himself. (He also made multiple grants to the MIT Media Lab.)

At some point, Epstein’s original $6.5 million grant ran down, and the rent on the PED’s offices was coming due. In banning direct contributions from Epstein, Faust did not say anything about indirect ones, and between 2010 and 2015, Epstein introduced potential donors to Nowak and Harvard Medical School professor George Church. The most important was private equity billionaire Leon Black. Impressed by Nowak, Black and his family foundation contributed $7 million to his program (and $2 million to Church). Again, Nowak’s program was able to stay afloat because of the support of the .01 percent.

A 2021 investigation by Black’s firm, Apollo Global Management, found that over the years he gave Epstein a staggering $158 million. Black claimed the payments were for advice about taxes and estate planning, but such a huge sum raised questions about whether Epstein had information about Black that Black did not want made public. Epstein also reportedly received at least $200 million from Les Wexner.

Larry Summers continued to meet frequently with Epstein. A photo taken on May 3, 2011, at Epstein’s Manhattan townhouse shows Summers posing in a marble-lined entryway with Epstein and Bill Gates, as well as Boris Nikolic, the science adviser of the Gates Foundation, through whom Gates had met Epstein, and James “Jes” Staley, then a JPMorgan Chase executive—a telling snapshot of the melding of financial and intellectual elites.

Gates visited Epstein numerous times over the next several years. Staley was the head of JPMorgan’s investment bank, and over the years Epstein had funneled a procession of wealthy clients to him. The two reportedly exchanged 1,200 e-mails.

Summers’s e-mail to Epstein requesting assistance in raising a million dollars for his wife to help improve his life suggests an intimate familiarity with the convicted sex offender. The solicitation came after Faust’s ban on seeking donations from Epstein.

Some of the prominent figures who met with Epstein after his conviction said in their defense that he had pleaded guilty to one count of soliciting sex from a minor, that he had done his time, and that he should be given another chance. Yet the most rudimentary due diligence would have turned up abundant evidence of the scale of Epstein’s sordid behavior. It would, for instance, have produced a link to a September 2006 New York Times article reporting that “in sworn statements to the police,” one 14-year old and other teenage girls “said a friend had arranged for them to visit Mr. Epstein’s home and give him massages, usually in their underwear, in exchange for cash.” One 19-year-old recruiter told police that Epstein “had routinely paid her to bring teenage girls to his home. The police then interviewed a total of 5 alleged victims and 17 witnesses, many of whom told similar stories about what they had observed or participated in at Mr. Epstein’s home.”

On October 15, 2007, the New York Post’s Page Six recounted that lawyers representing Epstein “are bracing for a slew of lawsuits from as many as 40 young women who came to his Palm Beach mansion for massage sessions”; in “a bid to squash a possible pile-up of messy civil actions,” Epstein’s legal team was “mulling a possible lump-sum offer to settle the claims all at once.” On October 17, the AP reported on a lawsuit brought by a teenage girl who said that Epstein had her “give him oral sex when she brought photographs of herself for him to review in his Upper East Side mansion sometime in 2000.” According to the lawsuit, the girl visited Epstein several times and “engaged in bizarre and unnatural sex acts” while she was still a minor. Epstein “repeatedly requested that [the girl] return with her 14-, 15-, and 16-year-old girlfriends.”

In 2014 and 2015, a new wave of stories was set off by a Florida court filing by Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who described her experiences with Epstein and his friend Ghislaine Maxwell between 2000 and 2002, when she traveled on his private planes to his various homes and was directed to provide massages and sexual favors to him and some of his wealthy friends, allegedly including the UK’s Prince Andrew. Giuffre said she had been trafficked to Andrew at least three times and was paid $15,000 by Epstein after she had sex with the prince in London.

In those court filings, Giuffre also claimed that Epstein had forced her to have sex with Alan Dershowitz when she was underage—a charge that Dershowitz has vehemently denied but that upended his life in a way that all his previous ethical controversies hadn’t. Beginning in January 2015, he repeatedly appeared on TV to dispute Giuffre’s claim, calling her a “serial liar” and a “prostitute” who could not be believed “against somebody with an unscathed reputation like me.” (In November 2022, after years of legal wrangling, Giuffre agreed to drop her charges against Dershowitz.) Despite being fully aware of the many girls and young women who said they had been assaulted by Epstein, Dershowitz continued to provide him legal advice, visiting him from time to time at his Manhattan townhouse.

Asked about this, Dershowitz said that not all those who claimed to have been abused by Epstein were underage. He added that his relationship with Epstein during this period was strictly an attorney-client one. “I know more about him than anyone else—things that are confidential,” Dershowitz said. But, he added, he felt obligated to continue to answer questions relating to his representation of Epstein, the same way he had with O.J. Simpson, Claus von Bülow, and the neo-Nazis he had represented on First Amendment grounds. “That’s the nature of legal representation. You don’t terminate the relationship.”

In late November 2018, the Miami Herald published Julie Brown’s three-part series, “Perversion of Justice.” In a year-long investigation, she tracked down more than 60 women who said they had been abused by Epstein and Maxwell. She also detailed the favorable terms of the deal engineered by Dershowitz and the other Epstein lawyers. In the ensuing furor, a federal judge ruled that the non-prosecution agreement approved by Acosta was invalid and that prosecutors had violated the victims’ rights by not informing them of the deal. On July 6, 2019, Epstein was arrested on sex trafficking charges, and on July 19, Acosta, then serving as the US secretary of labor, resigned. On August 10, Epstein died in his Manhattan jail cell in what was ruled a suicide.

In July 2019, BuzzFeed, drawing on court documents, revealed that Dershowitz, in his initial defense of Epstein in Florida, had sought the help of Steven Pinker about the wording of a federal law, known as the “Internet luring statute,” which holds that anyone “using the mail or any facility or means of interstate or foreign commerce” to entice a minor into prostitution is subject to a fine and at least 10 years in prison. Dershowitz and his team argued that the law did not apply to Epstein because prosecutors had not specifically shown that Epstein had used online communication to entice his victims. To confirm that position, Dershowitz asked Pinker as a well-known linguist to analyze the statute, and Pinker testified in writing that Dershowitz’s interpretation “is the sole rational reading.”

Vice also reported that Pinker had flown on Epstein’s plane in 2002 to attend a conference in California, and a photograph surfaced showing him sitting next to Epstein at a luncheon at a 2014 conference at Arizona State University. (Pinker told BuzzFeed that he had had no relationship with Epstein and that he wrote the letter for Dershowitz as “a favor to a friend and colleague” and did not know beforehand who the client was.)

Another name appearing in the documents made public after Epstein’s arrest was Glenn Dubin. A hedge fund billionaire, Dubin had no formal ties to Harvard—he attended Stony Brook University in New York—but in 2010 he donated $5 million to the Kennedy School to endow the Dubin Graduate Fellowship for Emerging Leaders. (It was housed at the Center for Public Leadership, which Les and Abigail Wexner had helped found in 2000.) Dubin knew Epstein through his wife, Eva Andersson-Dubin, who in the 1980s had been Epstein’s girlfriend. A former Miss Sweden, Andersson-Dubin was a highly respected physician who had survived breast cancer and had helped found the Dubin Breast Center at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

In 2004, when Dubin was looking to sell his investment firm, Highbridge Capital Management, he worked with JPMorgan’s Jes Staley, whom he had met through Epstein years earlier. JPMorgan bought a majority share in Highbridge for more than $1 billion. Epstein reportedly received a fee of around $15 million for making the introduction—another example of the huge sums he managed to extract from the financier class. After Epstein’s release from jail, the Dubins remained close to him and frequently flew on his planes.

In court filings, Virginia Giuffre cited Dubin as one of the businessmen and politicians whom Epstein had directed her to have sex with. Dubin strongly denied the charge. In another document, a former manager of the Dubin household, Rinaldo Rizzo, recalled speaking with a 15-year-old girl brought to their Palm Beach home in 2005. Eva Andersson-Dubin had left the girl in the kitchen where Rizzo and his wife were working. The girl told them that a few days earlier, Epstein and Maxwell had taken her to Little St. James and tried to force her to have sex with Epstein by threatening her and taking her passport.

When the news of Dubin’s connection to Epstein surfaced, several Dubin fellows started a campaign to sever the Kennedy School’s ties to him. One of them, Rebecca Mer, told the Crimson that “we’re just a few of many, many students who are incredibly concerned and upset” about the Kennedy School’s “ties to donors who are closely tied to Epstein.” In February 2020, Dubin’s name was quietly removed from the advisory board of the Center for Public Leadership, and the Dubin fellowship was allowed to lapse. Wexner’s name was also removed from the center’s board, but it remains on one of the Kennedy School’s buildings and on the Wexner Israel Fellowship.

Despite the mounting evidence of Harvard’s close ties to Epstein, the university itself remained mum. On September 10, 2019—10 months after the Miami Herald series ran and two months after Epstein’s arrest—the Crimson blasted Harvard’s “deafening silence” on the case. The university, it said, “bears the responsibility to make a concrete statement denouncing its ties to Epstein.” It had to consider not only the millions of dollars Epstein had donated to the university but also the relationships he had forged with its faculty.

Two days later, Harvard’s president, Lawrence Bacow, issued a statement condemning Epstein’s crimes as “utterly abhorrent,” expressing profound regret over the university’s ties to him, and announcing that he had ordered a review by Harvard’s general counsel and two other lawyers.

Their report, issued in May 2020, found that from 1998 to 2007, Epstein had donated $9,179,000 to support Harvard faculty and programs; that after Drew Faust decided in the wake of Epstein’s conviction that the university would no longer accept money from him, he had introduced professors Nowak and Church to Leon Black and other donors who provided them $9.5 million; that Stephen Kosslyn had facilitated Epstein’s admission as a visiting fellow in the psychology department despite his not meeting the criteria for such a position; and that Epstein had sought to use the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics website to boost his image. The report also noted Epstein’s estimated 40-plus visits to the PED offices after his conviction, which ended in 2018 after some researchers complained about his continued association with the program.

In an extraordinary footnote, the report stated that “a number of the Harvard faculty members we interviewed also acknowledged that they visited Epstein at his homes in New York, Florida, New Mexico or the Virgin Islands, visited him in jail or on work release, or traveled on one of his planes. Faculty members told us that they undertook these off-campus activities primarily in their personal capacities rather than as representatives of Harvard. These actions did not implicate Harvard rules or policies.”

In other words, because Harvard faculty members maintained that in dealing with Epstein, they were acting in a personal capacity rather than as representatives of the school, they fell outside the report’s purview. This is similar to Clarence Thomas’s claim that he did not need to report the favors he received from rich patrons because he was acting not as a Supreme Court justice but as a private citizen. Reflecting this specious distinction, the report made no mention of Henry Rosovsky’s long friendship with Epstein and Epstein’s support for building the new home for Harvard Hillel; Alan Dershowitz’s long personal and professional association with Epstein and the critical part he played in winning him a sentence seen by many as scandalously lenient; the help Steven Pinker gave Dershowitz in obtaining that reduced sentence and his more general proximity to Epstein; and the stain that Glenn Dubin’s and Les Wexner’s close ties with Epstein left on the Kennedy School.

The most conspicuously missing name of all was Larry Summers. Despite a close association with Epstein that extended over two decades, the report mentioned Summers only once, in passing. It did allude (in a footnote) to Epstein’s $110,000 gift to Elisa New’s education nonprofit, but since the gift was not made to Harvard itself, the university’s review “did not examine the circumstances” surrounding it. That New is Summers’s wife, and that he was the one who had arranged the donation, was considered immaterial.

The one person Harvard sanctioned in the whole affair was Martin Nowak, for giving Epstein unlimited access to the Harvard campus and for allowing him to use the PED website to burnish his image despite being aware of Epstein’s status as a registered sex offender. Nowak’s program was shut down and his teaching activities severely curtailed.

One faculty member who went public with his disgust with the report was Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Harvard Law School. In a column in the Crimson, he denounced the university for making Nowak a “scapegoat.” “Airbrushed from the history,” he wrote, “are the many Harvard luminaries who participated in and encouraged the ongoing relationship with Epstein after 2008.” The most notable of them, Lessig told me, was Summers. He “was at the center of everything around Epstein,” and omitting him from the report was like putting on “Hamlet without the prince.”

Dershowitz, interestingly, agrees that the report erred in not documenting Epstein’s faculty connections. “I’m in favor of transparency and truth,” he told me. “All of us should have been mentioned. Not including those relationships makes it seem like there’s something to hide.” Giuffre’s charges, he added, have irreparably damaged his reputation: “I will never again be invited to speak at a university”—no school would want to risk the controversy.

Larry Summers, meanwhile, remains in great demand. In the last year, he has appeared at Davos, the Aspen Institute, the Peterson Institute, the Atlantic Council, the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, the annual Boston Globe Summit, and the annual JPMorgan/Robin Hood Investors Conference, and he is a contributing columnist to The Washington Post. On September 23, 2022, university officials, faculty, family, and friends gathered at Widener Library to celebrate the long-delayed unveiling of Summers’s Harvard presidential portrait. Offering tributes were Larry Bacow, who called him a “much beloved” teacher and mentor to generations of students; Robert Rubin, who said the changes he had introduced as Harvard’s president were “paradigm shifting”; and (by video) Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, who had been head of the law school during Summers’s presidency and who said he had challenged and pushed her, making her a “better dean.” Summers himself said that Harvard “is a very special place for me, and I’ve always wanted to do everything I can to bring out its best.”

Outside Harvard, Epstein’s crimes continue to reverberate. In January 2020, the US Virgin Islands, in a lawsuit against his estate, charged that flight logs and other sources established “that between 2001 and 2019 the Epstein Enterprise transported underage girls and young women to the Virgin Islands, who were then taken via helicopter or private vessel to Little St. James,” where they were forced “to engage in sexual acts and coerced into commercial sexual activity and forced labor.” As recently as 2018, “air traffic controllers and other airport personnel reported seeing Epstein leave his plane with young girls some of whom appeared to be between the age of 11 and 18 years.” Epstein and his associates enforced their “sexual servitude” by “confiscating passports, controlling and extinguishing external communications, and threatening violence.” One 15-year-old who was forced into sexual acts by Epstein attempted to escape by swimming off the island. Epstein organized a search party that located her and “kept her captive” by confiscating her passport. In late November 2022, Epstein’s estate agreed to pay the Virgin Islands more than $105 million in cash, plus half the proceeds from the sale of Little St. James.

The following month, the Virgin Islands sued JPMorgan, which had managed dozens of Epstein-related accounts from 1998 to 2013 totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, for failing to alert it to Epstein’s trafficking. JPMorgan was also sued by women saying they had been abused by Epstein and that the bank had ignored clear warning signals. In June, the bank agreed to pay $290 million to settle the suit with Epstein’s victims. Deutsche Bank, which took over Epstein’s banking after JPMorgan gave it up, was fined $150 million in 2020 by New York regulators for failing to scrutinize Epstein’s suspicious transactions, and in May 2023, the bank agreed to pay $75 million to Epstein’s victims.

As these suits and settlements show, Epstein’s crimes continued undiminished after his initial arrest and throughout the many years he was meeting with Bill Gates, Leon Black, Woody Allen, Leon Botstein, Noam Chomsky, Ehud Barak, Alan Dershowitz, the Dubins, and Larry Summers. How could figures of such stature, wealth, and worldliness not have known? The answer seems clear: They didn’t want to know. With his private planes, luxury retreats, sumptuous dinners, comely assistants, powerful connections, and open checkbook, Epstein was a honeypot for the .01 percent.

And for Harvard, too. To this day, the university has made no apology nor offered any compensation to Epstein’s scores—perhaps hundreds—of victims. With so little accountability, what’s to prevent such a scandal from happening again?

EDITORS NOTE: A previous version of this article stated that Stephen Jay Gould attended sessions at the Jeffrey Epstein-funded Program for Evolutionary Dynamics. According to The New York Times, Gould was among the prominent scientists who associated with Epstein, but those sessions occurred after his death in 2002.

Ad Policy
x