Naomi Campbell addresses her ties to Jeffrey Epstein: 'Yes, I knew him'

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

Naomi Campbell is defending herself against accusations that she associates with criminals and other unsavory types while passing herself off as a humanitarian.

The supermodel spoke out Tuesday in response to a Mail on Sunday story questioning why she is being honored by the British Fashion Council for her philanthropic work when she has had ties to Jeffrey EpsteinHarvey WeinsteinKevin Spacey and disgraced former Liberian president Charles Taylor, among others. The take-down piece showed photos of her rubbing elbows with the “hair-raising cast of characters” who have “dubious and in some cases bloodthirsty reputations.”

(Screenshot: Naomi Campbell via YouTube)

In a video shared on her social media platforms, Campbell called the story “unfair,” a “distorted piece of journalism” and a “direct character assassination.” She said, “I’ve always said I’m not a saint. I’m a work in progress. But I will not be held hostage by my past.”

The supermodel went on to list the work she’s done through her charity Fashion for Relief, which she founded in 2005, and said, “I’m not going to stop — and I won’t be undermined or have my team be undermined for all the wonderful and great work” they’ve done.

During the interview by an unidentified person off-camera, some of Campbell’s various associations were brought up, including the one to Epstein.

“Yes, I knew him,” she said of the convicted pedophile who recently died by suicide in jail. “I was introduced to him on my 31st birthday by my ex-boyfriend Flavio [Briatore]. He was always front and center at Victoria’s Secret fashion shows.”

Did she suspect he was having sex with underage girls? “No,” Campbell answered, “and what he’s done is indefensible. When I heard what he had done it sickened me to my stomach just like everybody else.” She went on to add that it especially bothered her, “Because I’ve had my fair share of sexual predators and thank God I had good people around who protected me from this.”

She added, “I stand with the victims. They’re scarred for life.”

Campbell didn’t list every person from the article — Weinstein, Spacey — but said she also found it “unfair” to be tied to former President of Liberia Charles Taylor, who’s serving a 50-year prison sentence for some of the worst war crimes in history. While she testified at Taylor’s trial about their interaction and whether he gave her blood diamonds, she said she was merely a witness along with a group of others.

The tabloid article about Campbell had photos of her schmoozing with most of the people named — and she made the point that she’s “rubbed shoulders with” countless people during her decades in the limelight.

“I find it extraordinary that of all the hundreds of thousands of people I’ve stood next to take a picture at a public event, they’ve chosen these few,” she said.

And going forward, Campbell said “it will be very difficult” for her at events because she’ll be worried about everyone she has a photo op with.

“If you do take a picture, it’s going to be taken out of a context and used in a negative way,” she said. “So it’s going to be sad for everybody.”

Campbell — who has been a target of many negative headlines through the years, even poking fun of her own reputation wearing a “Naomi hit me shirt” amid physical spats — ended by saying she categorizes the story as “a character assassination” and that “we can all read behind the lines and know why they keep coming at me,” presumably alluding to racial discrimination. “But I will not lay back and let that happen.”

A second video added the following statement:

(Screenshot: Naomi Campbell via YouTube)

“The frightening conclusion here is that if the negative action of your neighbor, colleague or even an associate can somehow make you guilty too, simply by association, then we indeed live in very worrying in times. This affects us all, It’s wrong. It’s unfair and it must be stopped.”

Her following has been showing a lot of support. Most of the comments applauded her for speaking out, slammed the Mail on Sunday and suggested that racism was a motivation for the story. A sample:

(Screenshot: Naomi Campbell via YouTube)
(Screenshot: Naomi Campbell via YouTube)
(Screenshot: Naomi Campbell via YouTube)
(Screenshot: Naomi Campbell via YouTube)

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