The Microsoft founder was asked about his ties to the deceased financier during a wide-ranging interview with PBS’s Judy Woodruff.
“You had a number of meetings with Jeffrey Epstein, who — when you met him 10 years ago — he was convicted of soliciting prostitution from minors. What did you know about him when you were meeting with him, as you’ve said yourself, in the hopes of raising money?” Woodruff asked.
“Uh, you know, I had dinner with him. I regret doing that,” Gates answered. “He had relationships with people he said, you know, would give to global health, which is an interest I have. Not nearly enough philanthropy goes in that direction.”
“Those meetings were a mistake,” he added. “They didn’t result in what he purported, and I cut them off. You know, that goes back a long time ago now. There’s — you know, so there’s nothing new on that.”
Woodruff noted that Gates continued to meet with Epstein for years after their first encounter. Melinda Gates, who was believed to be furious about the friendship, reportedly began meeting with divorce lawyers in 2019 after her husband’s ties to Epstein first became public. She had been concerned about the relationship as far back as 2013, The Wall Street Journal reported in May. After announcing they would split earlier this year, the couple formalized the divorce last month.
Epstein killed himself in jail in 2019 while awaiting trial on federal charges of sex-trafficking girls as young as 14. He had pleaded guilty to a felony charge of solicitation and prostitution involving a minor in 2008 and was sentenced to 18 months in prison but served only 13.
“What did you do when you found out about his background?” Woodruff asked.
“Well, you know, I’ve said I’ve regretted having those dinners, and there’s absolutely nothing new on that,” Gates said.
Asked if there was a lesson from the experience, Gates said: “Well, he’s dead, so, uh, in general, you always have to be careful, uh, and, you know, I’m very proud of what we’ve done and very proud of the work of the foundation. That’s what I get up every day and focus on.”