Epstein and Maxwell’s high-powered connections have helped fuel rumours about their crimes and activiites
Conspiracy theorists’ fascination with Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell have bubbled up throughout the British socialite’s sex-trafficking trial.
The pair’s connections to wealth, luxury and powerful people – combined with Epstein’s suicide in prison following his conviction – have long provided fodder for amateur sleuths looking for a wider angle.
Many of them focused on Maxwell’s trial as she stood accused of recruiting and grooming girls for Epstein to abuse.
The Epstein and Maxwell accusations also prompted a flurry of doctored photos showing them posing with famous celebrities and politicians.
USA TODAY has debunked images that claim to show Epstein posing with President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Chief Justice John Roberts, the newspaper reported.
But the conspiracies don’t stop there.
In another bizarre claim, the death of the first Black Louis Vuitton artistic director, VIrgil Abloh, happened one day before Maxwell’s trial started – and was linked in a meme to the proceedings.
It was alleged Mr Abloh was a defendant in the trial – and social media users named other “defendants” such as Beyonce, though Maxwell was the only listed defendant in the case.
Social media users also shared claims thousands of times – erroneously – that the CEOs of Twitter, Walmart and CNBC had resigned.
But the conspiracy theories started long before Maxwell’s trial, and were only fuelled by the prison death of Epstein in 2019. The late financier’s death was ruled a suicide.
Conspiracy theories ranged from claims that powerful people had him killed in prison to keep the financier and convicted sex offender from naming names, to the idea that Epstein was ferried out of his cell to live the rest of his life in secret and luxury.
It didn’t help that guards were indicted following Epstein’s death for shirking their duties, some jail footage was unusable and Epstein had changed his will shortly before his death.
Following news that he was dead, social media was awash with claims that “Epstein didn’t kill himself.”
“People aren’t buying the suicide story,” said one tweet.
“Epstein is alive on a beach somewhere in the middle east,” said another.
Authorities attempted to combat the rumours but Eric Oliver, a University of Chicago professor who studies conspiracy theories, told the AP three months after Epstein’s death that no amount of evidence was likely to change some people’s minds.
“When there’s already this kind of profound mistrust of the political system, of political institutions, of the media, any kind of official channel that seeks to overturn this belief is likely to be viewed with suspicion,” he said.