Does Joe Biden Own an Island Near Epstein's? Conspiracy Theory Spreads As Election Approaches

A debunked conspiracy theory suggesting that Joe Biden owned a private island close to land formerly possessed by deceased sex offender Jeffrey Epstein persists online, simmering on niche forums, social media platforms and in comment replies to the Democratic presidential candidate's posts on Twitter.

Despite multiple fact-checking organizations concluding earlier this year that there was no evidence to back up the claim, it appears to have resurfaced online in recent weeks, often pushed by fringe sources, as the U.S. presidential election approaches.

Analysis by Newsweek suggests the baseless claims continue to appear on Facebook and Twitter and can be traced to niche online communities, including QAnon.

At its core, the theory goes like this: Joe Biden owns a private island close to Epstein's notorious hideaway of Little Saint James, a location in the U.S. Virgin Islands where the convicted financier was accused of trafficking and abusing young girls.

The conspiracy alleges Biden's land—Water Island—was storing a submarine belonging to Ghislaine Maxwell, a close Epstein associate who was apprehended in July 2020 and is facing up to 35 years in U.S. prison for her alleged role in sexual exploitation.

The Biden island rumors spilled onto the mainstream social networking websites around the same month as Maxwell's arrest. On Facebook, some uploads attracted hundreds of thousands of shares. Shorter versions of the claims also appeared on Twitter.

Wherever it popped up, the aim appeared the same: planting the seed that Biden, who emerged as the president's closest political rival, was linked to the sex offender.

It chose to ignore President Donald Trump's own close ties to Epstein, who was ruled to have died by suicide after being found unresponsive in a New York jail cell on August 10.

There's no evidence the Biden claims are true, fact-checking experts say. The tale appears to have been distorted from a Politico article published in January 2020 which said Biden's younger brother James had purchased an acre of land on Water Island in 2005 before selling a third to a lobbyist with ties to the former veep, Scott Green. Biden previously vacationed at a different part of the island, but nothing suggested ownership.

Politifact, a non-profit project by the Poynter Institute, reported U.S. Virgin Islands public property records for Water Island showed no listings for Joe Biden. There are no references to such a purchase in Biden's financial disclosures or tax returns.

Analysis conducted by Reuters, published in July, said Joe and Jill Biden own a home in Wilmington, Delaware and a vacation property in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. It found the Biden's rented a home in McLean, Virginia—a suburb of Washington, D.C.

When asked about owning the island by AFP Fact Check in July, a spokesperson for the Biden campaign, Andrew Bates, responded: "He does not and never has."

Despite attempts by the social media firms to restrict the spread of the false claims, they linger. Google Trends analytics indicate that searches for the term "does joe biden own a private island" often spiked over the past seven days, including in Michigan, Missouri and Pennsylvania—each projected to be election battlegrounds this year.

In one test this week, typing 'Does Joe Biden' into the Google search bar resulted in the auto-filled queries "does Joe Biden own a private island" and "does Joe Biden own an island in the virgin islands," possibly suggesting users were hunting for answers.

Under a tweet Biden posted on Thursday, multiple users referenced the island. "Is there any connection between the private island you bought next to Epstein Island and Hunter bringing sex-slaves to those islands?" read one baseless comment.

"The Biden family owns an island less than 9 miles from Epstein's island. Guess what the two islands have in common (other than the obvious): both have submarine bases. Ghislaine Maxwell owned submarines," read a comment from another Twitter user with a "Q" image and a series of numbers in their name—often a sign of bot activity.

The Q is potentially a reference to QAnon, a conspiracy theory asserting that a team of people are working with Donald Trump to expose "deep state" corruption. Posts from "Q" often appear on obscure message boards like 8Chan, signed with the letter.

On August 20, the unidentified people behind the stream of often-unintelligible Q posts shared a link to the Politico article, according to a QAnon aggregation site.

Multiple posts on Twitter about the Biden conspiracy remain active as of today, some dating back months, when the unfounded speculation started to spread.

"Epstein's island is in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It used to be a US military submarine base. Ghislaine Maxwell owns a submarine company. There's another private island a short distance away Guess who owns it? Joe Biden!" read one by an account with the handle @AngelWarrior321, whose profile bio describes them as a "Digital Warrior for President Trump." The post, published on July 9, has been shared more than 3,500 times.

Ultimately, the Twitter posts that are appearing online in recent days are not being sent by influential accounts—quite the opposite—but the repeating of the claim suggests the months-old and debunked Joe Biden conspiracy theory continues to circulate.

The spread to Facebook and YouTube

Citing fact-checking articles, Facebook has taken several steps to limit the spread of the Biden island conspiracy, adding a false information flag to posts and videos warning viewers that the "primary claims" in the content are "factually inaccurate."

Some continue to slip through the cracks, however, with a search for "joe biden island" showing a handful of posts about the topic were published in the past day.

Yup the news is coming fast. Did you know Poppa Biden has an island right next to Epstein island. Coincidence? I think not.

Posted by Dwight Swanson on Friday, September 25, 2020

Why doesn't anyone ask Biden about .. Water Island .. could it be Biden knows he’s not going to be POTUS if it gets out ?!

Posted by James Grace on Thursday, September 24, 2020

While a July 6 post from Truth Watch TV was clearly flagged, an April 27 post containing similar claims from a page called Mexicans for Donald Trump remains active. It remains unclear exactly how Facebook is determining which uploads to leave online, and why. The social network did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A Facebook post dating back to February, from The Trump News Network, contains a link to a YouTube video about the conspiracy. "Did you know Joe Biden owned a private island too?" the caption read, without a warning notice or flag in place.

That video, filmed by a man named George Webb, is being shared on social networking platforms as proof of the Biden island claims. Webb's YouTube account was terminated by the company, but re-uploads of the footage remain easily accessible.

One upload was deleted after it was flagged by Newsweek Thursday. A spokesperson said the site would now apply labels to searches for the conspiracy theory.

"We removed the video flagged to us by Newsweek. Users who have previously seen their channel terminated are not permitted to start new channels, and if their content is reuploaded we may remove it or terminate the new channel," a YouTube spokesperson said in a statement via email. "Additionally, we are surfacing fact check information panels above results for relevant queries, including 'Joe Biden private island.'"

Still, one YouTube mirror of the video found by Newsweek had amassed 137,640 views since February, and the most recent comment was submitted yesterday.

Reddit, once the de-facto home of QAnon, has not flagged or removed all posts about the Biden island conspiracy either, though submissions there do not appear to have had any significant reach. One of the more popular posts was an image from 4Chan.

Facebook, Twitter and Google have each pledged to clamp down on misinformation as the 2020 election, on November 3, draws increasingly near. Biden is currently scheduled to debate with President Trump on September 29, starting at 9 p.m. (ET).

On August 19, Facebook announced that it had removed more than 790 groups, 100 pages and 1,500 ads tied to QAnon. "Misinformation that does not put people at risk of imminent violence or physical harm but is rated false by third-party fact-checkers will be reduced in News Feed so fewer people see it," it said in a blog post.

Earlier this month, Trump smeared his Democratic opposition on Twitter after promoting a post that used the hashtag #PedoBiden. The surge in Biden rumors comes amid the release of a GOP report into Biden's son Hunter and his work for Ukrainian gas firm Burisma. Most of the findings were previously known, the BBC reported.

Earlier this month, Biden addressed the QAnon conspiracy theories during a campaign event in Delaware, describing the beliefs as embarrassing. "I've been a big supporter of mental health. I'd recommend the people who believe it maybe should take advantage, while it still exists, of the Affordable Care Act," Biden said, as Politico reported.

In a bulletin that referenced QAnon in May, the FBI noted that "conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists" were a growing threat in the U.S.

President Trump said during a White House briefing on August 19 he didn't know much about the conspiracy theory but said believers appeared to "love our country."

When asked if he stood by the QAnon claim that he was secretly saving the world from a satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals, Trump said: "Well, I haven't heard that. But is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing? I mean, you know, if I can help save the world from problems, I'm willing to do it. I'm willing to put myself out there."

Epstein's relationship with the president dated back to the late 1980s, with Epstein reportedly attending multiple events at Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Florida in the 1990s and early 2000s. The pair have been pictured together, and Trump's name was listed inside Epstein's "little black book," which was a list of his contacts. A redacted version of the book was originally leaked by Gawker in 2015 and circulated on social again last year following Epstein's death.

"I've known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy," Trump once said in reference to Epstein. "He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side."

Last year, Trump distanced himself from Epstein, saying: "I had a falling out with him a long time ago. I don't think I have spoken to him for 15 years.... I was not a fan of his."

Biden's 2020 presidential campaign, the White House and Twitter did not immediately respond to request for comment about the online conspiracy sent by Newsweek.

Joe Biden
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks before a roundtable event with military veterans at Hillsborough Community College on September 15, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. Biden is making stops in Tampa and Kissimmee in the pivotal swing state of Florida. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images) Drew Angerer/Getty
Does Joe Biden Own an Island Near Epstein's? Conspiracy Theory Spreads As Election Approaches | News