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Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts arrives before President Donald Trump's State of the Union address to Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 4, 2020. (AP/Millis) Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts arrives before President Donald Trump's State of the Union address to Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 4, 2020. (AP/Millis)

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts arrives before President Donald Trump's State of the Union address to Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 4, 2020. (AP/Millis)

Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy December 21, 2020

Viral photo, flight logs don't prove Chief Justice John Roberts went to Jeffrey Epstein’s island

If Your Time is short

  • There’s no evidence Chief Justice John Roberts is in the viral picture. The photo was taken in the Dominican Republic, not on Jeffrey Epstein’s private island. 

  • There’s no credible evidence that a “John Roberts” listed in Epstein’s flight logs is the chief justice, or that the chief justice had a personal relationship with Epstein.

There’s no evidence that U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was photographed on Jeffrey Epstein’s private island, despite what some social media users claim. 

A related narrative claims Roberts was listed in Epstein’s flight logs, but it also lacks evidence.

The claims falsely connecting Roberts to Epstein, the billionaire who was accused of running a sex trafficking ring before he died in jail, have picked up as supporters of President Donald Trump attack the Supreme Court for rejecting a bid to overturn the election in his favor.

Attorney Lin Wood, who has pushed unfounded claims of voter fraud and has hashtags related to the QAnon conspiracy theory in his Twitter bio, suggested in one of several Dec. 17 tweets that the chief justice was listed on Epstein’s flight logs. Social media users quickly followed suit.

"Lin Wood confirms Chief Justice John Roberts was on Epstein’s pedo island, has documentation" said the headline on one pro-Trump blog post shared widely on Facebook.

"John Roberts having fun at Epstein’s island!" said another Facebook post, which showed a photo of President Bill Clinton with several other men in an ocean. "He is compromised!"

The posts about Roberts were flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) 

In reality, the photograph that social media users say shows Roberts on Epstein’s private island was actually snapped at a Dominican Republic resort in January 2017. The picture shows Clinton with four men. It was featured in Spanish-language news reports from the time.

Featured Fact-check

Other fact-checkers have debunked the same claim, as well as similarly false claims that said photos from the same trip showed Clinton with Epstein and another convicted sex offender

It’s not clear who the person social media users identified as Roberts actually is. But as the Dispatch noted, photographs from Trump’s inauguration — which also took place in January 2017 — show that Roberts had grayer hair and a bigger bald spot than the man in question.

President Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States by Chief Justice John Roberts during the 58th Presidential Inauguration in Washington on Jan. 20, 2017 (AP)

The Supreme Court also heard several oral arguments that month, the court’s calendar shows.

A person by the name of "John Roberts" was listed in 2010 and 2011 entries in the handwritten flight logs kept by Epstein’s pilots. But PolitiFact found no credible evidence that the person named is the chief justice, as opposed to another person by the same name. 

Other fact-checkers noted that after the logs came out, Fox News White House correspondent John Roberts also denied any connection to Epstein on Twitter.

PolitiFact searched Google and Nexis and found no credible reports indicating that the chief justice was friends with Epstein. Other fact-checkers reached the same conclusion. We reached out to Wood and the Supreme Court’s public information office, but we did not hear back.

We rate these Facebook posts False.

Our Sources

Facebook posts (archived here), Dec. 17, 2020

Lin Wood on Twitter, Dec. 17, 2020

Various searches on Google and Nexis, Dec. 21, 2020

Various Supreme Court calendars, accessed Dec. 21, 2020

Various Associated Press photos, accessed Dec. 21, 2020

Various Spanish-language news outlets, accessed Dec. 21, 2020

USA Today, "Fact check: Ghislaine Maxwell, French modeling agent seen together in viral photo," Dec. 20, 2020

The Dispatch, "Did John Roberts Vacation on Jeffrey Epstein’s Island?" Dec. 18, 2020

Newsweek, "Fact Check: Does Photo Show Chief Justice John Roberts on Jeffrey Epstein's Private Island?" Dec. 18, 2020

Lead Stories, "Fact Check: Photo Does NOT Show Chief Justice John Roberts On Jeffrey Epstein's Island," Dec. 13, 2020

Business Insider, "We compiled every known flight made by Jeffrey Epstein's fleet of private planes. Search them all for the first time," July 6, 2020

Lead Stories, "Fake News: Chief Justice John Roberts Did NOT Fly With Jeffrey Epstein On At Least Two Occasions," Aug. 15, 2019

John Roberts on Twitter, Aug. 14, 2019

Snopes, "Is This a Picture of Bill Clinton with Convicted Sex Offender George Nader?" June 4, 2019

PolitiFact, "No, Tom Hanks’ name is not on Jeffrey Epstein’s flight logs," July 31, 2020

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More by Bill McCarthy

Viral photo, flight logs don't prove Chief Justice John Roberts went to Jeffrey Epstein’s island

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