Why Did I Say Anything At All?

I'm a dead fish, and you're going to ruin me.

Maybe you read this recent insane Mother Jones interview with Stuart Pivar, Jeffrey Epstein's former friend and art consultant. It doesn't provide any substantive answers to the myriad questions Epstein left hanging (lol) when he either committed suicide in a Manhattan jail cell or screamed futile pleas for help as hitmen contracted by a global cabal of powerfully wealthy pedophiles strangled him to death, but it does paint a much richer overall picture. And not just of Epstein, either, though there are definitely still some wild Jeffrey anecdotes in there (Like the one where he invited academics and scientists to his private island for intellectual summits, and then as soon as the conversation got too difficult for him to follow he’d yell, "But what does that got to do with pussy?!" to mask his own ignorance and boredom). The queasier takeaway from the interview is reading Pivar's real-time reckoning with his potential complicity in Epstein's crimes, and all the shame, anxiety, and anger that entails.

Right. So you’re not disputing whether he did these actions or not?

I know what he did except I know the cause of it and other people simply can’t conceive of the idea that what Jeffrey did—that he was beset with a pathology, like a disease. I watched it happen.

So were you ever around for any instances of these?

Of course! No, I never saw him fool around with—in fact, Jeffrey was a very, very close friend of mine. And he shielded me. I never saw what he did until finally I did notice certain things, and that was the end of me having to do with him. But for a very long time, for years and years and years, Jeffrey did amazing, incredible, amazing, remarkable things for science and all kinds of stuff. He was a very, very good friend to me.

He never invited me to the “Isle of Babes,” luckily. I never knew it was even there.

Really? So you ended your relationship? You said when—

Well, I ended my relationship when I began to realize that he was doing things that I didn’t know about.

Pivar is now 89 years old, a fact that becomes increasingly hard to ignore as the interview goes on and he begins to alternately repeat himself, lose focus, criticize the reporter’s qualifications, blame Epstein’s victims, and lash out with threats of a lawsuit. The interview would feel bullying and exploitative if Pivar wasn’t an elite pedophilia apologist who, like many other former Epstein associates, is so wealthy he won’t face anything resembling a consequence for his proximity to the man. You’d feel bad if he seemed worth feeling bad for.

So would you say this was a pattern with him, that he would sort of pretend to be interested in science and pretend to be interested in art, but it was really all surface level?

Yeah. Let’s put it that way.

And in your perspective, is the reason for that—

You know, I just realized something. Why the hell am I talking to you and getting involved with Jeffrey Epstein when I shouldn’t? I regret everything I just told you, by the way.

It’s a tense dynamic, but Pivar does make one excellent point: why the hell was he talking to a reporter?

Maybe you also read this Index Journal story about Dairy Queen having to respond to rumors that a Greenwood, South Carolina franchise was making its burgers from human meat. “At Dairy Queen, we are very proud of our 100% beef hamburgers. We serve a high-quality hamburger with no additives or fillers,” they tweeted, which I guess is corporate-public-relations-speak for “Of course the fucking burgers aren’t people. Do you have any idea how much more expensive that would be than flash-frozen C-grade beef patties?” The Index Journal also reached out to Greenwood County Coroner Sonny Cox, in his capacity as something of a meat expert:

“I promise you, I’ve never had anything of that nature asked of me. I’ve never suspected anything like that. I can honestly say that’s the first I’ve heard of it, and I don’t see any validity in that at all,” Cox told the Index-Journal on Friday when asked about the possibility. “There’s little to no chance of anything like that ever being able to happen.”

It’s a reasonable and comprehensive “No,” but me and a million other outlets are covering it anyway, because the story is just too juicy (Like the hot greasy drippings of a flame-broiled quarter-pound human GrillBurger). But where the hell did this rumor start?

The chronology of events is sort of hard to parse, but judging from this other Index-Journal article, it looks like that Greenwood Dairy Queen franchise was raided by the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and State Law Enforcement Division officials as part of a joint investigation into an alleged unlicensed money transmitting business. Although Saif Momin, the manager of the Dairy Queen, was not charged, he was named in the affidavit supporting a criminal complaint and reportedly may have allowed the illegal money transfer ring to use the business’s safe as a holding area for the large quantities of cash they exchanged. In what looks like a damage control move, Momin contacted the newspaper hours before the court documents were unsealed to profess his innocence, and also to respond to a pretty weird rumor he’d been hearing.

Momin said he was notified by a corporate inspector that somebody lodged a complaint about “human meat being inside a burger.” According to state Department of Health and Environmental Control inspection records, the facility has an “A” grade and was examined four times in 2018, most recently on Nov. 28 when it received a score of 97%.

“If that was the case, they already would have shut me down,” Momin said of the allegation.

As far as I can tell, this “corporate inspector” is never mentioned again in any of the reporting, by Momin, Dairy Queen representatives, or anyone else. And Dairy Queen’s “Our Burgers Are Not People, We Swear” tweet was in response to someone asking about the initial Index-Journal story that featured this quote, not loose talk from any other source. It actually looks a lot like the rumors of cannibalism started with the newspaper article in which the Dairy Queen manager insists there isn’t any truth to the cannibalism rumors that he himself is volunteering, seemingly unprompted.

So why would Momin put it into everyone’s heads that they’re throwing people into a meat grinder back there behind the Blizzard machines? Was he just so nervous at being implicated that he started blurting out every guilty thought and half-remembered customer complaint that popped into his head, like a fast food Telltale Heart? Could this have been a calculated distraction from the less titillating money transfer story, like when the President has multiple concurrent scandals but still finds the time to tweet out some syphilitic typo-ridden criticism of Debra Messing and then some moron on CNN insists he’s playing “three-dimensional chess” as a strategic diversion? Or is Momin just offering up a worse possibility to make his small crime look negligible by comparison? Like, “Yeah maybe I provided cover for an illegal money transfer ring but at least I didn’t put any human flesh in the food. You have to at least give me that.” We’ll probably never know.

Is there anything else that you think—

I am mad at myself! What have I—oh, dammit.

Is there anything—

I don’t trust you. You’re a journalist, and you’re not gonna take time to figure out what I really said.

I have now put myself into terrible trouble when I actually have no idea what the hell Jeffrey was ever doing. Except his scientific things and his supposed art things, I used to help him furnish his house with art. That’s all. And while that was going on—oh boy. What have I done?

I understand, and you spending time with Jeffrey was—

How much do you want to forget this whole conversation?

I’m not gonna take any money.

[Laughing] I know, I’m sorry I said that.

A few months ago, the FBI finally declassified a file they’ve kept on Bigfoot since the 70s and released it under the Freedom of Information Act. And what a file it is! Not only has the federal government finally officially confirmed the existence of Bigfoot, they also put him on their Ten Most Wanted list. Federal agents are currently coordinating search teams deep in the forests of the Pacific Northwest to okay fine yeah, you got me, I made up everything back there beyond the first sentence. The actual contents of the declassified report are a lot less vindicating.

“The hairs which you recently delivered to the FBI Laboratory on behalf of the Bigfoot Information Center and Exhibition have been examined by transmitted and incident light microscopy,” one of the impossibly dry letters within the file reads. “It was concluded as a result of these examinations that the hairs are of deer family origin.” Well, that settles that, I guess. Tough break for Squatch hunters. But why did the FBI get involved in the first place?

According to the correspondence in the declassified file, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released an issue of their “Washington Environment Atlas” in 1975 that referenced the possible existence of Bigfoot. “A sample of reputed Sasquatch hair was analyzed by the FBI and found to belong to no known animal,” the Atlas reported, which had the understandable effect of really riling up the Bigfoot community, who had never had their work legitimized by any government agency. Peter Byrne, then-Director of the Bigfoot Information Center, reached out to the FBI for more details on their hair analysis, which in turn really riled up the FBI. The Feds seemed to have no record of lending their credibility to an Army Atlas, nor of anyone ever contacting them about Bigfoot, for hair analysis or any other type of consult. They even reached out to Dr. Steve Rice, editor of the Army Atlas, for answers, but according to the files, “Dr. Rice was unable to locate his source of the reported FBI hair examination.” In response, the FBI collected a new sample from Peter Byrne, and actually sent it to the Academy of Applied Science in Boston for testing in 1976, which is how they (and we, 43 years later) learned that their Bigfoot was actually Bambi.

But where did the initial report that the FBI was involved even come from? Did Dr. Rice just make that shit up and throw it into his Army Atlas to increase sales because he knew that Bigfoot stories move Atlases? Could Peter Byrne or another Bigfoot believer have been the source who told the Atlas that the FBI was on the case, perhaps knowing that the FBI would be forced to defend its reputation and investigate as a result, footing the bill for what I imagine must have been a really expensive deer hair follicle test? Or was there some federal agent in a Washington field office who took a call from someone asking about Bigfoot and was like, “Yeah sure, we’re definitely investigating that,” while rolling his eyes and doing the jerkoff motion with one hand to make the other agents in the room laugh, and then it got reported as the official opinion of the FBI? Unless they declassify a lot more files, I don’t think we’ll ever know.

I think that’s a good idea. Do you think [Ghislaine] Maxwell was—

And in exchange for telling you this, why don’t you leave me out of it?

I’m not trying to drag you into anything.

Why did I talk to you! I’m a dead fish, and you’re going to ruin me.

Back in April, the New York Times ran an article about a new defense strategy in the ongoing Robert Durst trial, one that would directly address one of the more damning pieces of evidence in the case: the hot mic bathroom recording of Durst in which he seems to more or less confess to multiple murders. Durst’s defense team argued that the infamous recording was selectively edited by the filmmakers behind the 2015 series The Jinx, amounting to more of a manipulative audio collage than an actual record of what Durst said. For instance, while the version that aired on TV featured Durst summing up his incriminating mumbling with, “What did I do? Killed them all, of course,” the original unedited recording shows that Durst actually spoke that second sentence well before the first, and that the filmmakers changed these and other details for dramatic effect. 

Last week in Los Angeles, Durst’s lawyers requested that a judge strip the filmmakers of the usual legal protections afforded to journalists, arguing that they worked so closely with police and prosecutors during the making of the docuseries that they were essentially acting as agents of law enforcement. If the judge agreed, Durst’s team would have had access to all the raw footage the filmmakers shot for the series, giving them the opportunity to scrutinize it for any other selective or manipulative edits that might allow them to poke further holes in the prosecution’s case. However, the defense’s play went over about as well as I imagine Durst’s attempt to get his security deposit back from his Galveston apartment would have. From a Courthouse News Service article:

Ruling on what he said was an issue of first impression, Superior Court Judge Mark E. Windham found that Durst’s defense team had not succeeded in showing that the filmmakers and their production company, Hit The Ground Running, became so entangled with Los Angeles law enforcement while investigating the case that they should be treated as government agents.

The same article notes that a second judge later upheld Judge Windham’s decision during a separate hearing, which sounds sort of like the courtroom version of when you want to go to a concert on a school night but Mom says no so you go ask Dad, except in this metaphor Mom and Dad are both Superior Court Judges and instead of letting you go to the Bad Religion show they’re making you stand trial for the murder of Susan Berman. 

Knowing that The Jinx filmmakers selectively edited that famous audio clip almost makes me feel sort of sympathetic to Robert Durst, until I remember that even Durst’s lawyers aren’t disputing that he begins it by saying, “There it is, you’re caught,” to himself after he’s just been confronted with evidence that he killed Berman. What else would he have been talking about in that clip, if not the panic of realizing his past is finally closing in on him? Durst and his defense team don’t seem to have an answer for that one.

This is all very interesting—

I know it’s very interesting, but I’m just realizing something. I have just gotten myself into terrible trouble and everyone who knows is going to be mad at me—why the hell did I pick up the phone?

I appreciate you giving me your perspective on this. And—

No, you don’t. You’re going to misinterpret everything I just said, and you are about to get me into big-time trouble!

As their interview wraps up, Stuart Pivar says he’s writing a complaint to sue the reporter, and then threatens to stab him if he’s misquoted. But for all the anxiety he’s clearly feeling over how he’ll be portrayed, Pivar actually comes off relatively okay. I mean, yeah, he does offer the reporter a bribe, refer to Epstein’s victims as “trollops,” and profess more faith in Alan Dershowitz than seems reasonable for a functioning adult, but he also clearly explains that his job of furnishing Epstein’s many global properties with art was never connected to his boss’s rampant sexual abuse. That is, unless you consider the act of furnishing all those crime scenes with that art to be a connection in itself, in that it provided Epstein a respectable credibility that made it easier for him to go on having dinner parties with Silicon Valley CEOs and hosting Presidents on his private jet while he ruined dozens upon dozens of lives.

Maybe Epstein’s crimes are so inextricable from the lifestyle and wealth that made it possible for him to commit them that it feels sickening to read an “I had nothing to do with that” from the guy who decided what paintings would hang in Jeffrey’s massage room. It’s admittedly murky territory, attempting to extract some kind of justice (Or at least self-reflection) from someone so distantly, tangentially connected to the abuses. But if all that happens to Pivar after his years of helping to personally curate Epstein’s mask of respectability is that he has to weather a difficult phone interview, I’d say he got off pretty easy.

But then again…what’s that got to do with pussy?

I appreciate you giving me your perspective on this.

No, you don’t, you’re a journalist. Journalists don’t appreciate nothing. They’re like lawyers.

I’m insulted, but that’s okay. All right. Well, you have a great night.

Ok, have a nice evening. You’ve ruined mine.