Journalist Vicky Ward has released what she claims are select transcripts related to her 2003 Vanity Fair profile of Jeffrey Epstein following a critical New Yorker examination into why accusations from two of his victims were axed from her exposé. Ward’s transcripts, which appear edited and do not include any audio, portray then-Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Graydon Carter as allegedly saying the abuse of a 16-year-old was “not that earth-shattering.”
Back in 2002, Ward had interviewed siblings Annie and Maria Farmer for her thorough piece “The Talented Mr. Epstein,” but their claims of sexual abuse at the hands of Epstein and his ex-girlfriend and accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell never made it to the final copy. Late last year, Annie was one of four victims to testify at Maxwell’s criminal case.
Ward has argued Vanity Fair’s Carter caved to pressure from Epstein and axed the Farmers from the scoop against her wishes. The Farmers, who were heartbroken over their allegations being excluded, say they’ve refused to do on-record interviews with Ward whenever she’s asked in recent years because they felt betrayed and distrustful of her because of this experience.
On Tuesday, the New Yorker published a deeper dive into Ward’s assertions of having no say in the Farmers being silenced and revealed a more nuanced, and less favorable, picture of why Ward didn’t break the Epstein trafficking story. The article, by New Yorker scribe Isaac Chotiner, also examined Ward’s forgiving 2011 take on Epstein and Maxwell that glossed over their alleged abuse of young women.
In response, Ward tweeted that Chotiner’s article was “riddled with malicious inaccuracies” and that she was “going to release the transcripts of what Graydon Carter and Maria and Annie Farmer said to me back then so that you can read it for yourself and judge if what Vanity Fair did was right.”
But Ward told The Daily Beast that she has decided against releasing her transcribed conversations with Annie and Maria. “I decided it would be wrong to put those out,” Ward said on Wednesday. “At the end of the day, they don’t need it. They’ve been through enough, and that is more important than defending myself.”
“I’m very upset that they’re upset,” Ward added of the Farmers. “I feel that we’re aligned. That we’re all fighting the same system and I hope they’re able to get some clarity from reading what I wrote.”
In her defense of her reporting, Ward focused on what she said was Carter protecting the patriarchal system that shored up Epstein rather than exposing it. Carter, Ward told The Daily Beast, had a “bromance” with Epstein and said they formed their own “backchannel” to undermine her as she worked to report on claims that Epstein preyed on young women.
She also said she’s been marginalized by “sexist” journalism utilizing anonymous sources and questioned the purpose of the New Yorker piece, which she described as “vindictive, personal, slanted, and inaccurate.”
On Wednesday, Ward defended herself in her Substack newsletter with a post titled: “What the New Yorker Got Wrong.” She took shots at Carter, whom she accused of being in a “self-congratulatory male adoration club” with Epstein.
She chronicled what she claimed were written records of certain conversations between herself and Epstein and Carter, and a conference call with the two men, and other damning details about her old boss. She claims she provided these transcripts to Chotiner, but he didn’t include them in his story.
“Are they both underage?” Carter allegedly asked Ward of the Farmers.
“One was in her very early 20s,” Ward replied. “And one was 16.”
“Okay. The 16… I mean, what people do in their private lives, I mean, is not that, you know, earth-shattering. I think the money thing is more interesting,” Carter allegedly said.
In her Substack rebuttal, Ward writes, “Think about that: ‘16… what people do in [their] private lives is not that earth-shattering.’ In hindsight, the poor Farmers didn’t stand a chance against that attitude. Nor did I.”
Ward also alleges “Carter himself behaved inappropriately” by dishing “the details of his private life that involved a former employee.” She writes, “And how did he think I felt during years of being on the receiving end of critical remarks about my clothes (‘mutton dressed as lamb’), my face (‘save the Botox for when you need it’), and my marriage?”
“Unfortunately, it seems, that the same misogyny is prevalent at the top of Condé Nast today,” Ward adds, “‘Bash the woman’ is the message, rather than report the inconvenient facts. The same patriarchy that victimized and tortured these women is once again circling the wagons to protect itself.”
Asked for comment on Ward’s accusations, Carter said in an email: “Sorry, it’s impossible to deal with a serial liar. Nothing Vicky Ward says is true. Nothing. As McMarthy [sic] said of Lillian Hellman…” Carter, referring to dueling writers Mary McCarthy and Lillian Hellman, would not comment further when asked if Ward’s transcripts are fakes.
Meanwhile, Ward’s apparent transcripts of her calls with Epstein don’t reveal her directly grilling him about Annie and Maria’s sexual abuse accusations. “There was the implication that Maria Farmer finally Ohio or left because she felt there was some sort of sexual pressure,” Ward told Epstein, who replied, “For who?” Ward answered, “From you.” (Ward told The Daily Beast that she later sent Epstein a list of specific questions via fax and that call with the financier was only an initial conversation. “I’m feeling him out [in the call], then he goes to see Graydon Carter,” Ward said. “Then Graydon told me the next day that he believes Jeffrey Epstein over the Farmers.”)
Both Annie and Maria have said Vanity Fair’s exclusion of their interviews, and corroborating information from their mother, was painful for their family. And that in recent years, when Ward wanted to interview them again, Maria had to tell her to stop harassing them.
Maria told The Daily Beast that the New Yorker story was “an incomplete analysis of her lies and her coverup for her friends Jeffrey and Ghislaine.”
“No matter what Vicky Ward does, it’s to help Vicky Ward,” Maria fumed. “Vicky Ward has never once cared about the children involved in this story, about my baby sister who was 15 when this happened, she doesn’t care about anything but prestige and money.”
Maria said that when the Epstein case made headlines in recent years, Ward would contact her and her family and “hound” them for interviews via phone and in letters. “She has milked us to death,” Maria said.
“I have a real problem with Vicky because her stories never seem to line up,” Maria added. “How dare she try to defend herself right now.”
Annie, in her own statement to The Daily Beast, said, “Ward appears to me to be more concerned about protecting her reputation than she ever was about protecting girls and young women from a pair of predators.”
“Instead of pointing fingers, I wish all parties were taking more ownership for their mistakes,” Annie continued. “This dissection of what went wrong in 2002 is relevant because many members of the media still need to learn how to engage ethically with individuals coming forward with allegations of abuse rather than retraumatize them.”
Still, Ward says that she is entitled to defend herself in light of the New Yorker’s story and she doesn’t believe she’s done so at the Farmers’ expense.
In recent years, Ward came forward to say that she believes the Farmers’ claims and capitalized on the Epstein scandal with a three-part special Chasing Ghislaine on Discovery+ and Audible podcast of the same title. She first accused Carter of excising the women from her story in a 2015 column for The Daily Beast. “It came down to my sources’ word against Epstein’s… and at the time Graydon believed Epstein,” Ward wrote. “In my notebook I have him saying, “I believe him… I’m Canadian.”
Chotiner interviewed Ward about her history of covering Epstein and Maxwell after the latter was convicted in late December of grooming girls for the multimillionaire.
“Many of the things that she told me—and had told her podcast listeners—turned out to be untrue,” Chotiner writes. “All publications, including this one, at times look back on stories and regret not pursuing them further. But Ward’s claim that Vanity Fair prevented her from exposing Epstein misrepresents a more complicated reality.”
Chotiner adds, “Carter, who now says that he distrusted Ward as a reporter, has offered conflicting explanations for his magazine’s decision not to run the sisters’ allegations. For her part, Ward has repeatedly misrepresented her reporting on Epstein, changing her story from year to year and at times from day to day, and was a far less heroic actor than she would have her audiences believe.”
Maria was a 26-year-old art student in New York when she met Epstein and Maxwell and claims the duo sexually assaulted her in 1996. During the alleged assault, Farmer had been staying at the home of Epstein’s pal, former Limited Brands chairman Les Wexner.
The creepy couple also preyed on Maria’s 16-year-old sister, Annie, who was groped by Maxwell during a visit to Epstein’s New Mexico compound. At Maxwell’s criminal trial, Annie said she was “frozen” in fear when the socialite molested her.
Last July, Maria told Page Six she was tired of Ward allegedly “profiting” from her and Annie’s experience with Epstein. “I am horrified. Just leave us alone! Can’t she make money off of other victims?” Maria told the outlet ahead of Ward’s podcast premier. She added, “Whenever we hear the name ‘Vicky Ward,’ we cringe.”
Ward responded that she made an effort to “really apologize” to Maria in the podcast.
“She was done a great disservice,” Ward told Page Six. “[Epstein] ruined her life. I’m hugely sorry for my role in that. She obviously sees me as the enemy, which is very upsetting.”
In Chotiner’s piece, Carter initially recalled that he edited Ward’s first draft of her 2003 story and that “there was no mention of young women in it.” Emails showed, however, that Ward had discussed the Farmers’ sexual abuse accusations with fact-checkers and a photo editor weeks before her deadline.
“Carter and I also spoke on the phone,” Chotiner writes, “and he told me that the decision not to run the Farmers’ allegations was likely influenced by Ward’s professional reputation: ‘My staff, to a person, did not trust her.’”
In the years after her Epstein profile, Ward continued to write about the wealthy sex offender and mingle with Maxwell in Manhattan society circles.
Her bylines included a casual 2008 Vanity Fair item about rumors that Epstein would flee to Israel to avoid jail time for soliciting a minor in Florida. The story closes with an impertinent exchange: “‘Well, I guess you and I have a history by now, Jeffrey,’ I told him, thinking of my  article. He replied, ‘You know how many girls say that to me?’”
The next column, in 2011, was effusive about Maxwell—the very woman Annie accused of abuse in an interview with Ward about nine years before.
“This is not to say I didn’t hear stories about the girls,” Ward wrote. “I did. But, not knowing quite whom to believe, I concentrated on the intriguing financial mystery instead.” Ward added, “Sure, Jeffrey had his sexual peccadilloes, but then Ghislaine’s father was not without his oddities.” (Ward says her original copy said “we concentrated” instead of “I” because she wanted to cover for Vanity Fair and Carter. She says she always believed the Farmers but an editor changed her copy and made it seem otherwise.)
“And Ghislaine? Full disclosure: I like her. Most people in New York do. It’s almost impossible not to,” Ward wrote. “She is always the most interesting, the most vivacious, the most unusual person in any room.
“I’ve spent hours talking to her about the Third World at a bar until 2 a.m. She is as passionate as she is knowledgeable. She is curious. She has spent weeks at the bottom of the ocean, literally going deeper than anyone else.”
Asked about this language, Ward told The Daily Beast that Maxwell had an “extraordinary charisma” but claimed she didn’t know her well; she said they’d run into each other sporadically at a book launch or movie premiere. “This is somebody I would run into at an event, it’s not somebody I would be having lunch with,” Ward said. “I think people have got the wrong impression.” Ward added that she had no idea the heiress procured children for Epstein.
Ward told Chotiner that her draft was “quite different” from the finished feature posted on Vanity Fair’s website. “This piece got sent to Graydon and somebody altered it dramatically,” Ward claimed. “Really, really dramatically.”
As proof, Ward forwarded Chotiner her emails with Vanity Fair editors and her supposed first draft. According to Chotiner, the draft was “extremely similar” to the published piece and “specifically said that she was unsure of whom to believe.” The sentence about “sexual peccadilloes” was in that copy, too.
Chotiner says Ward claimed she included “precise allegations” from the Farmers in her 2011 write-up but someone at Vanity Fair removed them. But a copy of the draft, Chotiner writes, revealed that Annie’s accusations about Maxwell’s unwanted massage and Epstein climbing into her bed had never been included.
Asked why Annie’s claims about Maxwell were left out, Ward told Chotiner, “I wish I could remember.” She added that she was “deliberately covering” for Carter, who denied Ward’s claim. “2011 was a year I made a lot of bad decisions,” Ward said, mentioning that she was going through a divorce. “I was not mentally well.”
Chotiner pressed Ward on why she wrote the 2011 essay in light of her claims that Epstein threatened her before the first profile was published. She replied in part, “I think the reason I did it was that the media industry was imploding” and “This may seem bizarre, but by being able to write about it so flippantly I think it made me feel good, actually.”
Ward isn’t the only high-profile reporter covering the Epstein case to come under fire. Last week, victims Courtney Wild and Haley Robson filed a defamation suit against storied Miami Herald journalist Julie K. Brown, saying she misrepresented their stories in her 2021 book.