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A New York prosecutor points to a photo of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell at a 2020 news conference. (AP) A New York prosecutor points to a photo of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell at a 2020 news conference. (AP)

A New York prosecutor points to a photo of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell at a 2020 news conference. (AP)

Loreben Tuquero
By Loreben Tuquero February 1, 2024

We fact-checked a years-old ‘Epstein list’ with 166 names. Here’s what we found

If Your Time is short

  • Searching through Jeffrey Epstein’s flight logs and address book as well as news reports and newly unsealed documents from a case against Epstein’s former girlfriend and associate, Ghislaine Maxwell, we found no proof that more than half of the names on a popular 166-name "Epstein list" were linked to the sex offender.

  • Some names on the list, however, featured prominently in court documents as attorneys questioned witnesses about their relationships with Epstein, the disgraced financier and convicted sex offender.

  • Learn more about PolitiFact’s fact-checking process and rating system.

After a New York judge unsealed documents in a court case related to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, social media posts purported to have the full scoop.

"Confirmed visitors to Epstein Island 12/21/23," read a Jan. 3 Facebook post that then listed 166 people, many of them celebrities and world figures. President Joe Biden. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Singers Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Rihanna. Actors Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. The list went on.

"The Epstein List is Finally Out," a Jan. 4 Instagram post declared as video scrolled through the same list. 

(Screenshot from Instagram)

Turns out, much of this 166-name claim isn’t new and isn’t connected to the thousands of pages of documents the court released Jan. 3, Jan. 4, Jan. 5, Jan. 8 and Jan. 9. 

We found nearly identical lists shared in 2020 and as late as Dec. 31.

The previously redacted or sealed documents stemmed from a 2015 defamation lawsuit filed by one of Epstein’s victims, Virginia Giuffre, against Epstein’s former girlfriend and associate, Ghislaine Maxwell.

The records include letters from attorneys; transcripts of depositions with Maxwell, Giuffre and Johanna Sjoberg, who accused Epstein of abuse; and more, including emails from the involved parties that were released in discovery.

Using copies of the court documents that USA Today compiled on Document Cloud, PolitiFact looked up each name on this viral list to see whether it was mentioned. If we found a match, we reviewed the context in which the person was mentioned. We also looked at news stories and other documents — including Epstein’s already public address book and flight logs — to get a more complete picture of the list’s accuracy.

Answer: The list is not accurate. One-hundred and twenty-nine of the 166 people listed are not mentioned on any of the newly unsealed documents. Perusing Epstein’s private jet flight logs and his address book that were already publicly available, we found that 99 of the names were not on the flight logs, and 131 of them were not in the address book. (View our findings in this spreadsheet.)

(PolitiFact screenshot)

Among those on the list who are not mentioned in the documents: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; Obama; former first lady Michelle Obama; Beyoncé; Lady Gaga; Rihanna; Streep and Hanks.

Others on the list are mentioned once, and not in an incriminating way. For example, attorneys in documents named architect Ed Tuttle as a potential witness in the case. Still others on the list, such as actor Alec Baldwin, comedian Jimmy Kimmel and television personality Chrissy Teigen, have known of claims associating them with Epstein and have denied knowing the sex offender. None of them were mentioned in the documents.

Some names did feature prominently in the new records, including well-known figures whose relationships with Epstein have been widely reported.

@politifact Replying to @xxdoodlesxx1 This viral “Epstein list” with people such as Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga isn’t accurate. Here’s how we checked it. #epsteinlist #factcheck #fyp #learnontiktok ♬ Lofi hip hop Lofi(885430) - Enokido

Maxwell, for example, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for her role in what the federal prosecutors described as "a scheme to sexual exploit and abuse multiple minor girls with Jeffrey Epstein over the course of a decade." Others whose names appear frequently in the document have not faced prosecution. And mere mention of one’s name in the court case records does not mean that person is legally implicated.

Featured Fact-check

Among those whose names appear often:

  • Alan Dershowitz. Giuffre testified that she was sexually trafficked to Dershowitz between 1999 and 2002, when she was between the ages of 16 and 19. Attorneys for an accuser identified as Jane Doe No. 3 said Epstein sexually trafficked her to powerful people, including Dershowitz. Dershowitz denies ever having engaged in sex with Giuffre, and said Jane Doe No. 3’s claims were "totally false and outrageous charges." Giuffre later dropped her allegations against Dershowitz, and a judge tossed out Jane Doe No. 3’s charges.

  • Bill Clinton. Sjoberg said in a 2016 deposition that Epstein told her, "Clinton likes them young, referring to girls." An attorney asked Maxwell about her recollection of a trip to Thailand with Bill Clinton and she said she remembered it, but doesn’t remember the trip’s purpose. Giuffre did not accuse Clinton of illegal activity. Clinton in 2019 denied any knowledge of the "terrible crimes" to which Epstein pleaded. His statement also said that in 2002 and 2003, he took a "total of four trips" on Epstein’s jet, which included stops related to the work of the Clinton Foundation, and said he had "never been to Little St. James Island, Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico, or his residence in Florida." Clinton’s spokesperson told Newsweek on Jan. 3 that "nothing has changed" since the 2019 statement. In a statement to People, the spokesperson also said that despite being mentioned in the documents, Clinton was not accused of wrongdoing.

  • Jean-Luc Brunel. Lawyers for Jane Doe No. 3 said Brunel, a former modeling agent, brought young girls from poor backgrounds and farmed them out to friends including Epstein. They also accused him of engaging in illegal sexual activity with underage girls. He was arrested in December 2020 and, in 2022, was found dead in his prison cell by suicide. A magistrate charged him with sexual harrassment and the rape of minors over 15 years old, but his attorneys denied any wrongdoing. He was designated under the "status of assisted witness," which meant that prosecutors did not have enough evidence to charge him with human trafficking but could have charged him in the future.

  • Prince Andrew. Giuffre in 2021 filed a lawsuit against Prince Andrew, accusing him of sexual assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress while she was a minor. Prince Andrew denied these allegations and, in 2022, he and Giuffre settled. Sjoberg also accused Prince Andrew of groping her breast, a claim he denied.

  • Sarah Kellen. Witnesses said Kellen worked as a personal assistant for Epstein and Maxwell and scheduled flights on Epstein’s private jets. A judge said she was a "criminally responsible participant" in the sex-trafficking scheme, but she was never charged. In 2020, Kellen said through a spokesperson that she was subjected to Epstein’s sexual and psychological abuse for years. The statement also said that she is "aware of the pain and damage Epstein caused" and "deeply regrets that she had any part in it."

Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates is also on the list and is not mentioned in the new court documents. The New York Times in 2019 reported that Gates had met with Epstein multiple times since 2011, and that employees of Gates’ foundation also visited Epstein’s mansion. In a September 2019 interview with The Wall Street Journal, Gates confirmed that he met Epstein, but said he did not have "any business relationship or friendship with him."

Previous reporting on Epstein and his associates

In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to charges of soliciting prostitution and soliciting prostitution from a minor and was sentenced to 18 months in jail. He was arrested again in July 2019 on federal sex trafficking charges. Epstein died in his jail cell the next month, in what investigators ruled a suicide.

In 2015, Gawker published Epstein’s address book, which it dubbed the "little black book." Business Insider wrote that the address book likely included "aspirational contacts" or people Epstein wanted to meet. 

We used Business Insider’s searchable databases of Epstein’s flight logs and address book to search the names on the 166-name list. Fifty-four names on the list appear on the flight logs. Eleven names on the list are close to some listed on the flight logs and appear to be misspellings. (For example, former Clinton adviser Doug Band’s name appears as "Doug Bands," and British neurologist Oliver Sacks’ name appears as "Oliver Sachs.") 

Meanwhile, 32 of 166 names on the list were in the address book. The list also appeared to misspell the names of three people who are in the address book: Svetlana Griaznova (spelled "Svetlana Griaznove" in the address book), Magali Blachon and Melinda Luntz (spelled "Melinda Lutz" in some documents). Bill Clinton is not in the address book, but Band is.

Our ruling

A 166-name list that circulated on social media following the January release of court documents in an Epstein-related lawsuit claimed all people listed were connected to Epstein.

About 78% of the people on the list — 129 of the 166 — were not mentioned in the court documents. Looking through other already public documents, including Epstein’s private jet flight logs and his address book, we found that 99 of them were not on the flight logs, and 131 of them were not in the address book. Others who are mentioned in court documents have not all been criminally implicated, as the posts suggest. Although some of the people listed had well-documented relationships with Epstein, the number of those people formally charged with crimes is two.

Is this an accurate list? No, it is not. We rate it False.

PolitiFact Researcher Caryn Baird and Staff Writers Madison Czopek and Sara Swann contributed to this report.

RELATED: Claim this document shows Jimmy Kimmel in Epstein court case is Pants on Fire!

RELATED: Trump ‘exonerated’ by Epstein docs? Here’s what they do (and don’t) say about the former president

Our Sources

The Associated Press, A timeline of the Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell scandal, June 28, 2022

Facebook post (archived), Jan. 3, 2024

Instagram post (archived), Dec. 31, 2023

Instagram post (archived), Jan. 4, 2024

Facebook post (archived), July 22, 2020

USA Today, Epstein documents, released Jan. 3, 2024

USA Today, Epstein documents, released Jan. 4, 2024

USA Today, Epstein documents, released Jan. 5, 2024

USA Today, Epstein documents, released Jan. 8, 2024

USA Today, Epstein documents, released Jan. 9, 2024

Business Insider, We compiled every known flight made by Jeffrey Epstein's fleet of private planes. Search them all for the first time., July 1, 2020

Business Insider, There are 1,510 people in Jeffrey Epstein's little black book. Now you can search them all for the first time., July 1, 2020

Business Insider, We found Jeffrey Epstein's other little black book from 1997. Search all 349 names in our exclusive database., June 23, 2021

Web Archive copy, Gawker, Here Is Pedophile Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein's Little Black Book, archived Jan. 24, 2015

Intelligencer, Who Was Jeffrey Epstein Calling? A close study of his circle — social, professional, transactional — reveals a damning portrait of elite New York., July 22, 2019

Intelligencer, Who Are the Newly Revealed Jeffrey Epstein Associates?, Jan. 11, 2024

Al Jazeera, Jeffrey Epstein list: Whose names are on the newly unsealed documents?, Jan. 4, 2024

Lead Stories, Fact Check: 'Leaked' Jeffrey Epstein Flight Log Is Fake - 40 Celebrities Including Beyonce, Chrissy Teigen & Barack Obama Were Never On 'Lolita Express', Aug. 15, 2020

USA Today, Fact check: Several celebrities are falsely linked to Jeffrey Epstein's flight logs, July 30, 2020

U.S. Attorney’s Office, Ghislaine Maxwell Sentenced To 20 Years In Prison For Conspiring With Jeffrey Epstein To Sexually Abuse Minors, June 28, 2022

The Wall Street Journal, In Sworn Statement, Dershowitz Calls Accuser a ‘Serial Liar’, Jan. 6, 2015

The Wall Street Journal, ‘Jane Doe’ Lawyers Sue Dershowitz for Defamation, Jan. 6, 2015

CNN, Virginia Giuffre drops allegations against Alan Dershowitz, saying she ‘may have made a mistake’, Nov. 8, 2022

Business Insider, Alan Dershowitz called for the release of Epstein court documents. In them, Virginia Giuffre alleges they had sex at least 6 times., Jan. 10, 2024

Copy uploaded by The Wall Street Journal, Motion for limited intervention by Alan M. Dershowitz, Jan. 5, 2015

Politico, Judge tosses out sex claims against Alan Dershowitz, April 7, 2015

Daily Mail, EXCLUSIVE: 'Would you mind giving it a crack?' Bill Clinton leans back and smiles while receiving neck massage from Epstein victim, 22, in never-before-seen photos during trip on pedophile's plane to Africa in 2002, Aug. 18, 2020

The Hill, Bill Clinton issues statement on Epstein charges, July 8, 2019

Forbes, New Epstein Documents Unsealed: Bill Clinton ‘Threatened’ Vanity Fair Over Sex Trafficking Coverage, Email Alleges, Jan. 4, 2024

Newsweek, Bill Clinton Responds to Jeffrey Epstein Document Release, Jan. 3, 2024

The Daily Beast, Newly Surfaced Photos Show Clinton Getting Massage From Epstein Victim, Aug. 18, 2020

X post from Clinton’s spokesperson Angel Ureña, July 8, 2019

People, Jeffrey Epstein Allegedly Told Victim That Bill Clinton 'Likes Them Young,' According to Unsealed Docs, Jan. 4, 2024

Business Insider, Judge says Sarah Kellen was 'criminally responsible' in Jeffrey Epstein sex-trafficking scheme during Ghislaine Maxwell sentencing hearing, June 29, 2022

CBS News, Jeffrey Epstein accuser Sarah Ransome says she wants to face his alleged co-conspirators in court, May 26, 2020

The Guardian, Jean-Luc Brunel, held on suspicion of supplying girls to Epstein, found hanged, Feb. 19, 2022

NBC News, Jeffrey Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre testifies against modeling agent Jean-Luc Brunel, June 16, 2021

NBC News, Modeling agent Jean Luc Brunel arrested in Paris in Epstein probe, Dec. 17, 2020

ABC News, Jeffrey Epstein associate and modeling agent Jean-Luc Brunel found dead by suicide in French jail, Feb. 19, 2022

Time, The Biggest Names from Jeffrey Epstein’s Unsealed Court Documents, Jan. 4, 2024

The New York Times, Bill Gates Met With Jeffrey Epstein Many Times, Despite His Past, Oct. 12, 2019

The Wall Street Journal, In Bill Gates’s Mind, a Life of Processing, Sept. 10, 2019

The Wall Street Journal, Jeffrey Epstein’s Road Through Wall Street Was a Bumpy One, Aug. 28, 2019

The Wall Street Journal, Interior Designer Juan Pablo Molyneux: The Patron Saint of Lost Arts, June 16, 2014

The Daily Beast, Epstein Docs List All His Harvard Pals, Jan. 8, 2024, Lawrence Krauss, accused of sexual misconduct, received $250K from Jeffrey Epstein, July 12, 2019

The Harvard Crimson, Former Harvard President Lawrence Summers Met Repeatedly with Jeffrey Epstein, May 5, 2023

The Guardian, Prince Andrew, Clinton, Hawking: what do the Epstein documents say about key people?, Jan. 5, 2024

CNN, Jeffrey Epstein documents unsealed, naming Prince Andrew and former President Clinton, Jan. 3, 2024

The New York Times, Prince Andrew Settles Sexual Abuse Lawsuit With Virginia Giuffre, Feb. 15, 2022

NBC News, Prince Andrew 'appalled' by reports of Jeffrey Epstein's alleged crimes, Aug. 19, 2019

PolitiFact, Claim this document shows Jimmy Kimmel in Epstein court case is Pants on Fire!, Jan. 4, 2024

PolitiFact, Trump ‘exonerated’ by Epstein docs? Here’s what they do (and don’t) say about the former president, Jan. 11, 2024

CBS News, Photo shows Jeffrey Epstein with alleged teen victim: "She did not yet realize he had a predatory plan for her", Nov. 22, 2019

Vox, The Epstein "list," explained, Jan. 8. 2024

See sources linked in PolitiFact spreadsheet

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We fact-checked a years-old ‘Epstein list’ with 166 names. Here’s what we found

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