On February 11 2020, a tweet (also shared to Facebook) invoked the “mods are asleep” meme in a broader post about former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s purported appearance in the late Jeffrey Epstein’s “little black book”:
Mods are asleep post Mike Bloomberg in Epstein’s black book pic.twitter.com/Ji8y5XfyW3
— Filthiest Poster Alive (@victoriaxxviii) February 11, 2020
A blurry, redacted screenshot featured three names — magician David Blaine, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Mike Bloomberg. Without context, the tweet and screenshots might be confusing to people who are not extremely online, so we have broken it down here.
What does “mods are asleep” mean?
“Mods are asleep” is a common refrain on Reddit and 4chan; it is both an indication that the information following violates posting rules, and an incitement for other users to share typically restricted content:
“Mods Are Asleep” is an expression used to indicate that a website’s moderators are currently inactive and unable to enforce the site’s rules of conduct. The phrase is often followed by a call to action for other users to post material that is typically not allowed.
In the context of the tweet, the phrase was used humorously to imply that the appended screenshot perhaps contained forbidden or subversive knowledge.
Who are Epstein and Bloomberg?
Jeffrey Epstein was a convicted sex offender — a wealthy and highly influential pedophile — who died in a New York City jail in 2019. Michael Bloomberg served as mayor of New York City from 2002 to 2013, and at the time of the tweet in February 2020 was seeking the Democratic nomination for president.
Why was Epstein notable?
Epstein was primarily notable for his wealth, his philanthropy, hobnobbing with the super-rich and famous — and his alleged involvement in sex trafficking and conspiracy. He was arrested at Teterboro Airport in July 2019 and died in his cell on August 10 2019, spawning conspiracy theories about how he died and who might have killed him. (The death was officially ruled a suicide by hanging.)
What was Epstein’s “little black book”? Was it seized after his July 2019 arrest?
Long before Epstein’s arrest and jailhouse death, interest in his purported network of well-connected and wealthy people as well as the nature of the crimes of which Epstein stood accused were a subject of massive public interest.
In 2015, now-defunct website Gawker.com published a redacted version of Epstein’s “little black book,” reporting:
Donald Trump, Courtney Love, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and -lawyer Alan Dershowitz may have been identified by a butler as potential “material witnesses” to pedophile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein’s crimes against young girls, according to a copy of Epstein’s little black book obtained by Gawker.
An annotated copy of the address book, which also contains entries for Alec Baldwin, Ralph Fiennes, Griffin Dunne, New York Post gossip Richard Johnson, Ted Kennedy, David Koch, filmmaker Andrew Jarecki, and all manner of other people you might expect a billionaire to know, turned up in court proceedings after Epstein’s former house manager Alfredo Rodriguez tried to sell it in 2009. About 50 of the entries, including those of many of Epstein’s suspected victims and accomplices as well as Trump, Love, Barak, Dershowitz, and others, were circled by Rodriguez. (The existence of the book has been previously reported by the Daily Mail. Gawker is publishing it in full here for the first time; we have redacted addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, and the last names of individuals who may have been underage victims.)
Also surviving Gawker’s shuttering was a 92-page supplement to the item linked and quoted above, the redacted “little black book” of Epstein’s.
Was Mike Bloomberg listed in that copy of Epstein’s “little black book”?
Yes. The document was uploaded in an alphabetized format, and Bloomberg’s appearance on page six was indeed after Blaine and Blair.
What significance did appearing in Epstein’s “little black book” have?
It’s difficult precisely to pinpoint how or why anyone came to be in Epstein’s register of contacts. A July 2019 New York Magazine/Intelligencer piece on some of the names — which mentioned Bloomberg — began:
Perhaps, at long last, a serial rapist and pedophile may be brought to justice, more than a dozen years after he was first charged with crimes that have brutalized countless girls and women. But what won’t change is this: the cesspool of elites, many of them in New York, who allowed Jeffrey Epstein to flourish with impunity. For decades, important, influential, “serious” people attended Epstein’s dinner parties, rode his private jet, and furthered the fiction that he was some kind of genius hedge-fund billionaire. How do we explain why they looked the other way, or flattered Epstein, even as they must have noticed he was often in the company of a young harem? Easy: They got something in exchange from him, whether it was a free ride on that airborne “Lolita Express,” some other form of monetary largesse, entrée into the extravagant celebrity soirées he hosted at his townhouse, or, possibly and harrowingly, a pound or two of female flesh.
That article also provided further detail on how the book landed in Gawker’s hands in 2015 — through the investigative work of Nick Bryant:
In 2015, Gawker published Epstein’s “little black book,” which had surfaced in court proceedings after a former employee took it from Epstein’s home around 2005 and later tried to sell it. He said that the book had been created by people who worked for Epstein and that it contained the names and phone numbers of more than 100 victims, plus hundreds of social contacts. Along with the logs of Epstein’s private plane, released in 2015, the book paints a picture of a man deeply enmeshed in the highest social circles.
Some of those listed in the article distanced themselves from Epstein; Malcolm Gladwell was listed, and he maintained that he had no idea why:
“I was invited to the TED conference in maybe 2000 (I can’t remember), and they promised to buy me a plane ticket to California,” Gladwell says now. “Then at the last minute they said, ‘We found you a ride on a private plane instead.’ As I recall, there were maybe two dozen TED conferencegoers onboard. I don’t remember much else, except being slightly baffled as to who this Epstein guy was and why we were all on his plane.”
Was Epstein’s “little black book” widely covered in mainstream outlets, or was it the realm of gossip and rumor?
After Epstein’s July 2019 arrest, the New York Times covered its existence in an article, beginning with the stated confusion of some individuals listed in the ledger:
Andrew Rosen, the founder of Theory and owner of numerous racehorses, said he didn’t know him and had never met him. Mr. Rosen couldn’t recall ever attending an event he hosted or crossing his path.
Charles Finch, the film producer, brand builder and bon vivant, didn’t know him, either. Vanessa von Bismarck, the glamorous founder of a namesake fashion PR company? She had no idea why her name came up. Nor did Joan Juliet Buck, the former editor of French Vogue.
“As far as I know, I never met Epstein,” Ms. Buck said. “I never went to any of those famous parties at the biggest house in New York City.”
That’s Jeffrey Epstein, of course. Even though their names were in his notorious little black book, along with those of known associates like Prince Andrew, Donald Trump and Alan Dershowitz, these individuals said they were not sure why they appeared. They weren’t, they said, friends, or even passing acquaintances.
A July 2019 profile in Vanity Fair addressed the book in part, reiterating how it originally came to be publicized:
Ever since Epstein’s arrest on July 6, there’s been growing scrutiny of his vast network of rich and/or famous and/or powerful friends and acquaintances—or former friends and acquaintances, as it were. There’s a road map to that network in Epstein’s now-infamous black book, filled with many bold-faced names, phone numbers, and addresses, from Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, and Ehud Barak to Alec Baldwin, Ralph Fiennes, Mick Jagger, and even Courtney Love. “It is a mosaic of Epstein’s social contacts,” the investigative journalist Nick Bryant told me.
Bryant first got his hands on a copy of the black book in 2012, after the feds caught Epstein’s former house manager trying to peddle it for $50,000. At the time, Bryant was shopping a feature on Epstein, without success. “My Epstein article would focus on the government malfeasance that enabled Epstein to skate on scores of child abuse charges,” Bryant wrote in a pitch he submitted to various editors, “and I would also look into covert ties that the government may have had with Epstein. Moreover, the little black book opens up multiple vistas of investigation, and I would attempt to amass sufficient corroboration on some of the power broker perps who molested these girls.”
Bloomberg’s name did not appear in the article. An article published the same month by Bloomberg.com (“If You Flew Epstein’s ‘Lolita Express’ Private Jet — the Feds Want to Talk to You”) started off with reporting that federal investigators were interested in chatting with well-connected individuals named in the book:
After Jeffrey Epstein’s [July 2019] arrest on sex trafficking charges, some famous people may be squirming. His notorious little black book and private-jet manifests contained a long list of boldface names, including Victoria’s Secret mogul Leslie Wexner and former president Bill Clinton.
U.S. prosecutors on Monday encouraged anyone with information about Epstein’s conduct to come forward, not just potential victims. To the socialites, celebrities and politicians who attended lavish parties at Epstein’s homes in Manhattan or Palm Beach in the early 2000s — or hitched rides on his private jet nicknamed the “Lolita Express” by the tabloids — the request carried a clear message: Come talk to us before we seek you out.
“You would much rather be visiting the Department of Justice and engaging a conversation about what you saw rather than making the DoJ find you,” said Jacob Frenkel, a former federal prosecutor now at Dickinson-Wright. “There’s a much greater potential for influencing the parameters of an interview and the scope of cooperation by going in voluntarily than becoming a compulsory guest” of the government, he said.
Bloomberg.com emphasized the number of prominent names in the book — but made no mention of Michael Bloomberg, either in the text of the article or as an editor’s note:
The names include well known performers, including Ralph Fiennes, Alec Baldwin, David Blaine, Jimmy Buffett and Courtney Love; media figures including Charlie Rose, Mike Wallace and Barbara Walters; former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, former British prime minister Tony Blair, industrialist David Koch and the late Salomon Brothers chief executive officer John Gutfreund and his wife, Susan.
Why did the book languish in near-obscurity until Epstein’s 2019 arrest?
In the Vanity Fair interview, Bryant provided two answers regarding his long-futile efforts to report on the book and its contents. Bryant described years of resistance to reporting on the “power brokers” in the book, and the massive credibility challenge when it came to the victims of sex abuse and pedophilia:
Child abuse is the most horrific of crimes, and editors, I would think, had some cognitive dissonance over what I was pitching them. To assuage their cognitive dissonance, they would much rather decide that I was crazy, or a conspiracy theorist, than to actually address the allegations. But I had the black book, and a lot of the police reports, and some of the FBI reports …
… In these types of investigations, you’re gonna deal with some very sordid people. Even the victims, their credibility can be problematic, because they can come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, repeatedly molested at a very young age, some turn to drugs to assuage their pain. That’s what makes this type of thing perfect for the perpetrators. The victims’ credibility is easy to compromise.
One month prior to Epstein’s jailhouse death, Bryant was asked for “predictions” about the case trajectory. He referred back to an earlier bit of investigative journalism he did with a similar focus, noting one of the two “primary pimps” died of suicide, as Epstein reportedly did one month later on August 10 2019:
I don’t know. In [previous investigation] The Franklin Scandal, there were two primary pimps. One committed suicide, the other did 10 years in prison for embezzlement, and he’s had a pretty comfortable life since. It all depends on whether Epstein’s gonna talk or not. If Epstein talks, there’s gonna be a lot of powerful people who could go down. It’s really contingent upon how far the Department of Justice wants to take this. But like I said earlier, the Epstein scandal will also go all the way up to Mount Olympus.
What did it mean when someone was listed in Epstein’s book?
A word of caution: just because someone’s name & contact information appear in the Epstein Black Book, which dates from 2004-5, does NOT automatically suggest that he or she was involved with the (“alleged”) sex trafficking … I’d like to think Elie Wiesel, for example, was not being “massaged” by teenagers. Same with Ralph Fiennes, Paul Allen, Julie Taymor, and Simon LeBon. Epstein made a point of meeting influential people, and not all of them shared his depraved sensibilities.
On the other hand, there are some people in there who, while probably innocent of raping minors, are villains nonetheless: Henry Kissinger, Rupert Murdoch, David Koch … and Conrad Black, undeserving beneficiary of a Trump pardon … There are Rockefellers & Rothschilds in the Epstein Black Book, a clutch of politicians, numerous Hollywood movers & shakers, fashion-industry big-wigs, and royals including the Duke & Duchess of York (Prince Andrew—“Andy,” to Jeffrey).
Other interesting names in the Epstein Black Book: Tom Barrack, Tony Blair, Mike Bloomberg, Jimmy Buffet, Tom Ford, George Hamilton, Dustin Hoffman, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, Ted Kennedy, Charlie Rose, Kevin Spacey, Chris Tucker.
So, is the claim true?
Yes. Mike Bloomberg was one of numerous contacts listed in Jeffrey Epstein’s “little black book.” Many of the listed sought to distance themselves from Epstein after his arrest renewed interest in the book’s contents. However, what — if any — relationship Bloomberg maintained with Epstein was unknown, and he was far from the only prominent person to appear in the book.