Fulbright University Vietnam Board Member Shows His True Colors

It may seem, at first blush, an unlikely connection: Leon Botstein, the president of Bard, one of the country’s most progressive colleges, and Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced billionaire accused of sexually abusing teenage girls.

Leon Botstein has led Bard College for nearly five decades. Credit: Richard Beaven for The New York Times

Leon Botstein (LB), president for life of Bard College, a private liberal arts college in upstate New York, was recently interview by The New York Times about his association with Jeffrey Epstein. The resulting article A College President Defends Seeking Money From Jeffrey Epstein contains a couple of damning and self-incriminating quotes in his attempt to justify asking a convicted sex offender for money for his college.

People don’t understand what this job is. You cannot pick and choose, because among the very rich is a higher percentage of unpleasant and not very attractive people. Capitalism is a rough system.

That is a humiliating experience to go back over and over and over. We’re completely at the mercy of the very wealthy.

What did LB and Bard end up getting for his efforts, which included “two dozen or so visits scheduled with Mr. Epstein, mostly at the financier’s Manhattan townhouse,” according to The Wall Street Journal? Aside from an unsolicited and paltry 75k donation, Epstein donated 66 laptop computers.

Here’s an obvious question. Why did LB need to visit Epstein’s townhouse, I wonder, “two dozen or so” times? Why not his office? At least in terms of donations, his ROI was nonexistent.

While I admire LB’s brutal honesty – on some level – he’s clearly a man who’s trying make excuses for his reprehensible behavior. Money is money, right? As always, always consider the source. This is what happens when you lack a moral compass. The source doesn’t matter. The money and what the institution can do with it do. LB chose dishonor and disgrace over honor by association, evoking the unattributed expression, Success without integrity is failure. In this case, he was unsuccessful and his actions were devoid of integrity.

Will there be any repercussions for LB’s candid sharing? Probably not since he’s been president since 1975. That kind of longevity is not possible without deep reservoirs of support at the highest level. After all, the Bard board of trustees signed off on his attempts to cultivate Epstein. Suffice it to say that the Epstein connection is not exactly a feather in the cap of what appears to be an otherwise distinguished career.

Leon Botstein & Vietnam

At this point you’re probably wondering what LB has to do with Vietnam. Thanks for your patience. When I saw this article and his name, I immediately thought of Fulbright University Vietnam. At the title of this post indicates, LB is a member of FUV’s board of trustees chaired by Thomas Vallely. He’s Tommy’s kind of guy. Expediency trumps ethics. Eyes on the prize. It’s safe to assume that LB was in total agreement with the 2016 decision to appoint Bob Kerrey, a self-confessed war criminal, as chairman of the FUV board of trustees. Life’s full of compromises and trade-offs, right? 😡

Something else they have in common is their willingness to say whatever’s on their mind in the belief that there won’t be hell to pay. Have a look at this 2018 Politico essay that I helped arrange and see what Vallely said about the Kerrey fiasco. My sources tell me he was even sober when these words tumbled out of his big mouth. It’s called privilege. Here’s one quote that the editors paraphrased, thereby diluting its original impact: To Vallely, the sheer ubiquity of violence against civilians in Vietnam, but especially in the densely populated Mekong Delta, argues against singling out Kerrey for criticism.  This is a paraphrase of a quote:  We killed so many people in the Mekong Delta! We tried to empty the Mekong Delta. (He was laughing and attempting to make the point that Sen. Kerrey should not be criticized for what he and his unit did in February 1969 in Thanh Phong). 

Don’t miss the comments in response to the NYT article and in this Reddit thread. Here are two from the former that jumped off the screen:

But taking money from a convicted sex offender? At some point ethical guardrails must intervene. Immoral and bad optics. Shame on Bard!

Please. He knew Epstein’s reputation. This was no secret. The. man had been arrested before and it was well known within those circles what he was up to. It’s embarrassing optics, but alas, the *holes* in Botstein’s narrative are even worse. He “can’t remember” if he met Jeffrey Epstein? This seems rather calculated in its opaqueness, considering his “two dozen or so visits” with someone that he actively cultivated and who flew to campus on his private helicopter. “You wouldn’t criticize a priest for giving communion to a convicted felon.” Maybe not, but I criticize Dr. Botstein for cavorting and seeking financial support from a very problematic “donor.” That’s not an apples to apples comparison.

Let me conclude with one final question. How is LB going to cultivate the “very wealthy” for future donations when said individuals know that he views many of them as “unpleasant and not very attractive people”?

Shalom (שלום), MAA

4 thoughts on “Fulbright University Vietnam Board Member Shows His True Colors

  1. gloaming1851
    8 DAYS AGO
    A bit suspicious. The WSJ reports 25 trips by Botstein to Epstein’s penthouse (brothel). Leon Botstein also invites convicted sex felon Jeffrey Epstein onto his Bard College campus, and Epstein arrives with multiple young women on a helicopter. In the WSJ article, he beefed up security on the Bard campus during Epstein’s visits. Botstein reports that part of his relationship with Epstein was to reform him. Botstein reports Epstein was ‘sadistic’ to him. Connecting the dots here…how many dances does 66 laptops buy? Give me a break. This is a tragedy for both Bard College and Botstein personally. https://www.dailyfreeman.com/2023/05/01/bard-president-leon-botstein-met-with-jeffrey-epstein-years-after-sex-crime-conviction-college-confirms/

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