Gray haired white man with long face, black eyebrows looking worried

Jeffrey Epstein

January 25, 2001 - Imagine Columbus Alive's surprise last week when Nigel Rosser, a British journalist and reported confidant of the royal family, contacted us to inquire about Prince Andrew's central Ohio connection. Rosser had read two award-winning Alive stories--"The Shapiro Murder File" and "Spook Air"--and wanted to chat about our own Leslie Wexner and his top aide, the mysterious Jeffrey E. Epstein.

Rosser's article, published in the London Evening Standard on January 22, described Prince Andrew's recent behavior as "erratic" and "greatly upset[ing]" the royal family. The Prince has been so busy partying with his new American pals, even his ex-wife Fergie is complaining.

Who's to blame for Andrew's failure to babysit for his daughters Beatrice and Eugenie, according to Rosser's article? None other than Ghislaine Maxwell, who has been spotted in the Prince's company at hotspots-of-the-rich-and-famous around the world. Ghislaine is the daughter of the infamous financier Robert Maxwell, who died after falling overboard from his yacht in 1991.

The late tycoon's daughter fled Britain and now resides in Manhattan, where the Columbus connection emerges. Rosser reported that Ghislaine is a one-time partner of Epstein, "an immensely powerful New York property developer and financier." Other newspaper reports have described Epstein as everything from a concert pianist, corporate spy, math teacher, stockbroker, merchant banker, and globe-trotting businessman. He has steadfastly denied rumors of links to the Israeli Mossad. Maxwell denied similar connections just prior to his accident at sea.

Whatever Epstein does, Rosser's article pointed out that he and Prince Andrew "now appear to have evolved a curious symbiotic relationship--whenever Ghislaine is seen with Andrew, Epstein is never far behind." Rosser cited an unnamed friend of the Prince saying that Andrew's a "very poor judge of character." Last May, Andrew went on a vacation with Epstein and Ghislaine in Florida. Rosser claimed he also attended a "hookers and pimps" Halloween party in New York with Ghislaine.

Epstein "has a license to carry a concealed weapon, once claimed to have worked for the CIA--although he now denies it--and owns properties all over America," Rosser noted. When he's not globe-trotting, Epstein has the choice of many places to call home, including a fortress-like mansion in New Mexico, a $40 million New York townhouse, and the second most expensive residence in central Ohio. Of course, the mansion is located in New Albany, near his close friend and mentor, billionaire Wexner.

"Epstein began working for Mr. Wexner in 1985 and by the late 1980s had become wealthy, through, among other things, handling his worldwide air freight concerns and his fabulous collection of art, which includes a $45 million Picasso," the Evening Standard reported. Epstein also serves as a trustee of the Columbus-based Wexner Foundation.

"Ghislaine is now employed by Epstein as a `consultant' at his elegant Madison Avenue offices. She stays at his house several nights a week and organizes his parties in New York," the Evening Standard reported. "She also acts as his interior designer and has sold property on his behalf. Ghislaine, it is said by friends, remains desperate to marry Epstein. He refuses, but enjoys the social stature that she can bring him."

One friend of Andrew and Ghislaine told Rosser that "the whole Andrew thing is probably being done for Epstein. Epstein will not marry her and it is incredibly likely she's doing it to keep in with him." Meanwhile, the article continued, Andrew has managed to meet a whole new crowd of people, including "sex entrepreneur Christine Drangsholt" on a trip with Epstein and Ghislaine to Mar A Largo.

Dispatch was weary of Clinton

Bill Clinton is out of public office, and it seems that no one is happier to see him leave than the folks at the Columbus Dispatch. In his January 21 analysis of the Bush inauguration--which readers were able to differentiate from an editorial mainly because the paper helpfully labeled it "ANALYSIS" in large, black letters--Dispatch reporter Jack Torry took a few parting pot shots at the former president. On the same front page, reporter Jonathan Riskind piled on with a few anti-Clinton quips of his own.

With the same sense of relief that American POWs in Germany must have felt as the gates were opened and their victorious countrymen marched in, Torry wrote that Bush's "address was clearly designed to reassure weary Americans that the tumultuous years of his predecessor...have come to an end." This sentence sums up the tone of Torry's article so well that Dispatch editors reprinted it in bold letters above the piece.

Echoing this theme of exhaustion, Riskind also referred to "a nation weary of Clinton's personal foibles" in his reporting on the inaugural address.

So where are all these exhausted, haggard refugees from the Clinton years? Judging only by Torry's and Riskind's words, a reader might think that they are all around us, that most Americans are breathing a collective sigh of relief now that Clinton has headed up the road to Manhattan. Yet, according to nearly every major poll conducted in this country, most Americans heartily approve of the manner in which Bill Clinton performed his job.

The Gallup Organization, for example, asked Americans 226 times over the course of Clinton's tenure, "Do you approve or disapprove of the way Bill Clinton is handling his job as president?" Clinton's job approval ratings, as determined from the answers to that question, soared from a low of 37 percent during the summer immediately following his inauguration to a heady 73 percent during the Monica Lewinsky mess before settling at 66 percent in December 2000 polling. Only Franklin Delano Roosevelt had a higher approval rating upon leaving the White House. Republican icon Ronald Reagan, whose name has been plastered on nearly every unclaimed edifice in Washington, trailed Clinton by three percentage points.

Let's make that clear: Clinton was more popular than Reagan, according to independent polling. This is the kind of inconvenient fact that Dispatch writers just can't wrap their partisan minds around.

Reinforcing the validity of Gallup's results, 66 percent of the respondents in a December 2000 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll approved of Clinton's job performance, as did 68 percent of the participants in a CBS News poll and 65 percent of those in a Los Angeles Times poll, both from December 2000. While some may not have liked the way Clinton conducted his personal life, most very much approved of his job performance.

These polls paint a picture of a satisfied, not weary, America. Without term limits, we would undoubtedly still be referring to President Clinton and Governor Bush.

Only the Dispatch, not the country, is weary from the Clinton years. Not just in their editorials, but in the daily monopoly's "analysis" and political reporting, the paper's reporters and editors have consistently and repeatedly projected their own feelings about Clinton onto readers. Their derogatory comments concerning then-president Clinton were generally made in an offhand manner, matter-of-factly, and without supporting data or logic.

One unfortunate effect of this targeted bias is that Dispatch reporters, because they are so focused on slamming Clinton, often miss the real story. Torry correctly pointed out that Bush bashed his popular predecessor for not repairing Social Security and Medicare. Bush's words were, "We must show courage in a time of blessing by confronting problems instead of passing them on to future generations."

But Torry then failed to question the accuracy of this statement. The Congressional record, readily available to reporters, clearly shows that Clinton repeatedly attempted to reform both programs. Torry never raised this fact, nor did he examine the possibility that the politically motivated persecution of Clinton thwarted his efforts at reforming these programs just as they ground the workings of Washington to a halt on nearly every other important program.

Torry and Riskind also failed to question Bush's sincerity in asking for healing and cooperation. Except for the words he has uttered, the new president shows no intention of working towards common ground. He is pushing his partisan agenda aggressively, from controversial, uncompromising cabinet appointments to private investment of Social Security and a missile defense system. While stalwartly pursuing an agenda is not necessarily bad, doing so while begging for cooperation, healing, bipartisanship, civility--pick your Bush buzzword of the day--is the height of hypocrisy.

Riskind failed at another vital point in his piece. He dutifully relayed the following portion of Bush's address: "[W]hile many of our citizens prosper, others doubt the promise--even the justice--of our own country. The ambitions of some Americans are limited by failing schools and hidden prejudices, and the circumstances of their birth."

However, his reportage stopped with the mere transcription of Bush's words. Riskind did not mention the irony of these comments being made by the man who, as governor of Texas, did little to improve the state's education system and who refused to even slow down Texas death row killings in the midst of strong evidence that innocent people are sitting on death row in many states around the country. With their anti-Clinton agenda out of the way, perhaps the weary Dispatch reporters will start delivering such news to their readers.

This appears in The Fitrakis Files: Cops, Coverups and Corruption by Bob Fitrakis, CICJ Books, 2009,