If the most pernicious lies are the ones we tell ourselves, accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein used an age-old defense to justify sleeping with underage girls: He compared it to homosexuality.
In one of his final interviews before Epstein took his own life in a Manhattan Correctional Center jail cell, he told the New York Times that "criminalizing sex with teenage girls was a cultural aberration and that at times in history it was perfectly acceptable."
"He pointed out that homosexuality had long been considered a crime and was still punishable by death in some parts of the world," said the Times' James Stewart.
The comparison inverts an old conservative tactic: Right-wing figures often liken homosexuality to pedophilia to discredit same-sex relationships or suggest that they are somehow "abnormal." For instance, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and a close advisor to President Trump, claimed on his organization's website in 2010 that "evidence shows a disproportionate overlap between the two."
"It is a homosexual problem," he claimed.
That's not true, but it hasn't stopped Perkins from also comparing homosexuality to bestiality and likening LGBTQ+ people to Nazis and terrorists, according to the media watchdog group GLAAD.
It's telling about the growing acceptance of LGBTQ+ idenities that Epstein used the old homosexuality = pedophilia canard not to demonize queer people but to gain sympathy. The late billionaire is accused of running a sex trafficking ring which recuited young girls to be sexually abused, with many of the victims as young as their early teens.
Epstein was arrested on July 6 following previous attempts at justice. According to The Daily Beast, he was previously handed a "slap on the wrist for allegedly molesting dozens of underage girls in Florida."
However, Epstein will never face true accountability for his reported crimes. He was found hanged in his cell on Saturday after being taken off suicide watch.
Epstein's death has sparked numerous conspiracy theories in the wake of his suicide, owing to his massive roster of famous associates. At various times in his life, he was friends with former President Bill Clinton, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, and Prince Andrew. President Donald Trump once called Epstein a "terrific guy."