The claim: Celebrities haven’t addressed Epstein flight logs
The child sex trafficking allegations against the late Jeffrey Epstein have received renewed attention following the arrest of his former associate, Ghislaine Maxwell, who is charged with recruiting girls for Epstein’s sex-trafficking operation.
Epstein was arrested on July 6, 2019, and faced federal charges for the trafficking of minors in New York and Florida. He pleaded not guilty that July 10 and was found dead in his jail cell one month later.
Since his arrest, photos have surfaced of Epstein and Maxwell with high profile-celebrities and politicians, including President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump, as well as Maxwell’s attendance at Chelsea Clinton’s wedding.
Flight logs for Epstein’s private plane have also been unsealed following a lawsuit from one of his accusers, revealing that Trump and former President Bill Clinton had both flown on Epstein’s plane.
Other notable names in the flight records include supermodel Naomi Campbell and actor Kevin Spacey.
Since the arrest of Maxwell, conspiracy theories about an elite pedophile ring have spread across the internet, accusing celebrities like Chrissy Teigen, Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey of involvement.
The claims appear to originate from the far-right conspiracy movement, QAnon. Followers of the movement hold a wide range of beliefs, but a primary conspiracy theory is that global elites, leading Democrats and the “deep state,” are involved in pedophilia and mind control and are working against Trump, who is trying to end their activities.
The theories have evolved into baseless claims accusing various celebrities of involvement in sex-trafficking — Epstein-related or otherwise — which have gone viral.
One viral Facebook post, which has been shared more than 121,000 times said, “Does anyone else find it odd that not a single celebrity or big name on Epsteins flight list has spoken out in defense of themselves? … Chrissy Teigen deleted 27,000 tweets, but never put out a statement about it. Ellen DeGeneres has not spoke on it. Oprah Winfrey has not spoke on it.”
What is QAnon?
Joseph Uscinski, a University of Miami professor who has been studying conspiracy theories for decades, told USA TODAY in 2018 that QAnon followers are usually “Trump supporters who have a strong conspiracy mentality and are probably evangelical.”
The Guardian reported in 2018 that a user named “Q,” who claims to be a government insider with top security clearance, began posting messages on the dark web years ago and created a group of anonymous leaders who are referred to as “Anon.”
The person behind the conspiracy theories, “Q,” claims to have knowledge about a large child sex trafficking ring, alleging some politicians and celebrities wear ankle monitors and are under investigation. The group attempts to decode anonymous comments on dark web message boards such as 4chan and 8chan.
QAnon spread a baseless suggestion in 2016 that a pizza parlor in D.C. was a front for a child sex ring and started a conspiracy theory called “Pizzagate,” which led to violent actions. In 2016, a 28-year-old North Carolina man opened fire inside the D.C. pizza shop, claiming he was rescuing child sex slaves. Police said in court documents that the suspect surrendered “peacefully when he found no evidence that underage children were being harbored in the restaurant.”
Are Teigen, DeGeneres and Winfrey in the flight records?
Contrary to what the post says, Teigen has addressed the flight lists — multiple times. On July 10 she posted on Twitter, “I have never even met the man (Epstein). Or been to the island. Or on the plane.”
After facing what she called “scary harassment” over allegations about ties to Epstein, Teigen said she deleted 60,000 tweets, blocked over 1 million users and is considering taking legal action.
“I actually deleted 60,000 tweets because I cannot … STAND you idiots anymore and I’m worried for my family,” her post on Twitter said.
No reports about the high-profile celebrities on Epstein’s plane have mentioned Teigen, and her name is not recorded on the released flight lists.
Other celebrities who were identified in Epstein’s flight records have addressed their relationship with him, including Naomi Campbell, Donald Trump and Bill Clinton. All denied any knowledge of a trafficking operation.
The post’s accusations about celebrity involvement with Epstein does not include those who are actually in the flight records.
Like Teigen, no published reports about celebrities on Epstein’s flights include Winfrey or DeGeneres. Their names are also not listed in the released flight records.
Additionally, Teigen, Winfrey and DeGeneres also are not recorded in a searchable database, which has been compiled through the use of optical character recognition to analyze the released flight log entries.
Our rating: False
The claims in the post have been rated FALSE. While there are some high-profile celebrities and politicians listed in Epstein’s flight records, Chrissy Teigen, Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres are not.
It is also false to claim that no celebrities have addressed their ties to Epstein; multiple celebrities who were actually listed in Epstein’s flight records have publicly addressed their relationship with him. Additionally, although Teigen is not listed in any of the records, she has publicly addressed the false accusations.
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Contributed: McKenzie Sadeghi, USA TODAY