Jeffrey Epstein
© Rick Friedman/Getty Images
Jeffrey Epstein in 2004, four years before his plea deal in Florida that has been widely criticized.
After Jeffrey Epstein got out of the Palm Beach County jail in 2009, having served 13 months of an 18-month sentence resulting from a plea deal that has been widely criticized, he began a media campaign to remake his public image.

The effort led to the publication of articles describing him as a selfless and forward-thinking philanthropist with an interest in science on websites like Forbes, National Review and HuffPost.

The Forbes.com article, posted in 2013, praised him as "one of the largest backers of cutting-edge science around the world" while making no mention of his criminal past. The National Review piece, from the same year, called him "a smart businessman" with a "passion for cutting-edge science." The HuffPost article, from 2017, credited Mr. Epstein for "taking action to help a number of scientists thrive during the 'Trump Era'," a time of "anti-science policies and budget cuts."

All three articles have been removed from their sites in recent days, after inquiries from The New York Times.

Mr. Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to soliciting a minor for prostitution, a deal that he and his legal team negotiated after he was accused of sexually abusing dozens of young women and girls. Under its terms, he faced no federal charges and was made to register as a sex offender.

The agreement was brokered by R. Alexander Acosta, who was then the United States attorney for the Southern District of Florida and went on to become the labor secretary under President Trump. Two days after defending how he had handled the case in a news conference, Mr. Acosta resigned under pressure.

The articles in praise of Mr. Epstein came about partly because of an online publishing model adopted by some news organizations that relied on outside contributors who often wrote for little or no pay, with little or no input from editors.
epstein scrubbed

A post about Mr. Epstein on the Forbes website has been removed.
The article on the Forbes website was attributed to Drew Hendricks, a contributing writer. As The Times revealed in an article last week, he was not the author of the piece. Instead, it was delivered to him by a public relations firm, and he said he was paid $600 to attach his byline and post it at Forbes.com.

Mr. Hendricks said he had not been aware of Mr. Epstein's history. "All I knew was, this is a guy doing a science thing," he said. "If I had known otherwise, I wouldn't have done it."

Forbes removed the item last week "for failing to meet our editorial standards," it said in an editors note on the page.

Randall Lane, the chief content officer of Forbes Media, said an article like the one attributed to Mr. Hendricks should not have been posted and would not make the cut now, because the process for screening outside contributors has been strengthened.

"Our North Star is always transparency," Mr. Lane said of Forbes' handling of problematic articles. "What we've learned over the last few days is that this is an area we need to re-evaluate."

A staff of roughly 200 employees produces Forbes's in-house journalism, but most of the 100 articles the site publishes each day come from a group of nearly 3,000 outside writers. More content means more readers, and the number of unique visitors to Forbes.com has surged nearly 70 percent over the last four years, to 60.9 million last month, according to comScore.

While the number of views has gone up, the limited editing of contributors at Forbes has come in for criticism, with some noting problematic posts like one in 2014 headlined "Drunk Female Guests are the Gravest Threat to Fraternities."


Comment: Not to mention Forbes is in bed with Monsanto, doing their dirty work by publishing hit-pieces on GMO detractors. Talk about 'problematic posts'. See: Forbes retracts attack on paper showing link between glyphosate and cancer


The heavy use of outside contributors has been profitable, said Damon Kiesow, the Knight Chair in digital editing and producing at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, but it has come with risks to the Forbes name. "It changed their reputation from being a respectable business publication to a content farm," Mr. Kiesow said.
Epstein mansion NY
© Yana Paskova for The New York Times
Mr. Epstein’s mansion in Manhattan.
HuffPost discontinued the model of allowing outside writers to post freely last year. Before the system ended, contributors "could post their content with no editorial review," HuffPost said in a statement. Its 2017 article on Mr. Epstein appeared under the former setup.

The byline belonged to Rachel Wolfson, once a frequent contributor to the site who described herself in her author bio as a digital marketer. On Friday, HuffPost said in a statement that it had removed the piece "at the author's request." Ms. Wolfson did not respond to requests for comment.

Between 2005 and 2018, more than 100,000 contributors took advantage of HuffPost's open-door model. At the time it was shut down, the HuffPost editor in chief Lydia Polgreen wrote, "Open platforms that once seemed radically democratizing now threaten, with the tsunami of false information we all face daily, to undermine democracy. When everyone has a megaphone, no one can be heard."

The article on Mr. Epstein published by National Review, the conservative publication founded in 1955 by William F. Buckley Jr., was also removed on Friday. It was credited to Christina Galbraith, who identified herself in her bio as a science writer who had published at Forbes and HuffPost.

Ms. Galbraith was also a publicist for Mr. Epstein, according to several news releases promoting Mr. Epstein's foundations and initiatives in 2012, 2013 and 2014 that included her as a contact. Ms. Galbraith did not respond to requests for comment. In the article that appeared on the National Review site, she described him as having "given thoughtfully to countless organizations that help educate underprivileged children."

"We took down the piece, and regret publishing it," Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review since 1997, said in an email. He added that the publication had "had a process in place for a while now to weed out such commercially self-interested pieces from lobbyists and PR flacks."

In addition to Forbes, HuffPost and National Review, a technology-focused website called The Next Web, now controlled by The Financial Times, published an interview with Mr. Epstein that didn't note his status as a sex offender and stated that he used "his resources to beneficial, unlikely ends." The name in the byline was Dylan Love, who calls himself an "editorial gun for hire" on his website. Mr. Love did not respond to requests for comment. The Next Web amended the article on Friday to point out "the glaring oversight" of failing to note Mr. Epstein's conviction.

The website's program for outside contributors "used to be a free-for-all model, where anyone could publish anything," until it was reformed in 2017, said Alejandro Tauber, the publisher of The Next Web. He added that the story on Mr. Epstein "was one of the layovers from the old system."