No, Disney didn't buy Jeffrey Epstein's island. Claim started as satire | Fact check

The claim: Disney bought ‘Epstein Island’

An April 7 Facebook post (direct link, archive link) shows a screenshot of a Google search result for the phrase “Walt Disney buys island," along with the first paragraph of an apparent news story and a photo of disgraced late financier Jeffrey Epstein.

“The Walt Disney Company officially buys Epstein Island,” begins the text of the screenshotted article.

The post was shared more than 10,000 times in five days. Similar posts accumulated hundreds of additional shares and likes.

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Our rating: False

This didn't happen. The claim originated on a website clearly labeled as satire, but the Facebook post does not indicate that.

Claim originated on satirical website

Epstein owned two Caribbean islands, and investigators said that over more than two decades, he trafficked underage girls and women there to be sexually abused. The financier died by suicide in 2019 in a New York prison while he awaited trial.

But the claim that Disney purchased one of those islands is a fabrication. A financier bought them both in 2023, and there are no credible reports either has been sold again.

Fact check: What's true and false about Jeffrey Epstein and the individuals on his list

Shown at the bottom of the image is a URL for Mouse Trap News, which posted the March 8 article that was the origin of the claim. The website describes itself as "the world's best satire and parody site" and says, "You can be assured that anything you read here is not true, real or accurate, but it is fun.” While the article carries a disclaimer that it is a “totally made-up story,” that does not appear in the screenshot shown in the post.

The Facebook post is an example of what could be called "stolen satire," where stories originally written and presented as satire are captured and reposted in a way that makes them appear to be legitimate news. As a result, readers of the second-generation post are misled, which is what happened here.

An investment firm led by financier Stephen Deckoff acquired the Little St. James and Great St. James islands in May 2023 for $60 million with plans to develop a luxury resort by 2025. A settlement agreement between the U.S. Virgin Islands and Epstein’s estate requires a large portion of the proceeds from the sale to be used to provide services for sexual abuse victims, NPR reported.

Disney does own a private island, called Castaway Cay, which it purchased from the Bahamian government in 1997.

USA TODAY has debunked an array of claims involving Epstein and the islands, including assertions that one was sold to the Clinton Foundation and that an image showed former President Barack Obama’s family vacationed there.

USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook user who shared the post but did not immediately receive a response.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Epstein Island' sold to Disney? No, that's satire | Fact check