Graydon CarterNatural Resources Defense Council's 'Night of Comedy' Benefit Gala, New York Historical Society, Arrivals, New York, USA - 30 Apr 2019

Graydon Carter has a new media venture to launch, but a Vanity Fair profile on Jeffrey Epstein from 16 years ago is shadowing him.

Author and journalist Vicky Ward recently and publicly accused Carter of essentially acquiescing to pressure from Epstein, a billionaire and convicted sex offender who’s currently in a New York jail on charges of sex trafficking, after she uncovered accusations of sexual misconduct during reporting for a 2003 profile on him. 

Not only does Ward claim to have had her story edited to remove mention of the on-the-record accusations against Epstein, she claims that Carter personally had them removed after Epstein made a trip to Condé Nast and Carter’s office when he found out about the claims. Carter, however, in a Q&A with The New York Times’ David Marchese, refuted Ward’s account, while simultaneously admitting to a lack of recall.

“I’m not going to get into the details, because I don’t even remember the details,” Carter said in the interview. “The fact is that editors make tough decisions every day and at Vanity Fair we had an army of fact checkers and lawyers and other editors to help us make the right ones. It’s easy for people to question those decisions 20 years on.”

Soon after Ward reignited her claim that the Epstein accusations were removed from her profile (she wrote about this a few years back, too, but with Epstein’s arrest and Carter’s upcoming Air Mail launch they’ve become relevant again). Carter explained that she didn’t have three sources on the record corroborating them. Ward said that she did, being that the accusations came from a mother and her two daughters, one of whom claimed to be abused by Epstein.

Not satisfied with Carter’s time-stamped reasoning, Marchese poked at the idea that three corroborating sources required for such accusations actually favors someone like Epstein. Carter actually cut Marchese off to say, “I didn’t invent the system. I just lived by the system.”

Asked if he now, with the benefit of hindsight, feels he missed the “more important Epstein story,” Carter deftly replied: “I kick myself over missing multiple stories. The fact is, that story was the toughest story done on him, probably over a 10-year period. He hated the story.”

So what of the phone call with Epstein and his in-person visit to Condé’s offices? According to Carter, he spoke to Epstein at the request of Ward in an effort to get him to go on the record for the profile. “It was a cat and mouse game and I don’t think he ever did,” Carter said. As for the visit, he said that Epstein just showed up in the lobby one day after Carter asked him to pose for photos, something else he didn’t do.

“So contrary to what Vicky Ward has also said, there was no deal that happened where you said you would take out the accusations if Epstein provided you with photos to accompany the profile?” Marchese asked.

 “Never,” Carter said. “I’ve never done that in 25 years at Vanity Fair.”

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