In yet another bombshell report in The New Yorker, journalist Ronan Farrow revealed Friday that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, which has faced backlash over its acceptance of contributions from financier and convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, had a far more extensive partnership with Epstein than previously stated ― and attempted to keep it under wraps.
According to emails and other documents obtained by Farrow, Epstein had already been blacklisted as a “disqualified” donor when the lab continued collecting his gifts, marking them as anonymous and avoiding disclosing the full scope of his role in fundraising.
That included soliciting donations from tech mogul and philanthropist Bill Gates and investor Leon Black, each of whom gave $2 million and $5.5 million respectively at Epstein’s behest, according to The New Yorker. However, a spokesperson for Gates denied to The New Yorker that Epstein directed any contributions from him. Black declined to comment to The New Yorker.
Joi Ito, the lab’s former director who abruptly resigned hours after the report emerged, confirmed to The New Yorker that the lab received $525,000 directly from Epstein. In addition, “Ito disclosed that he had separately received $1.2 million from Epstein for investment funds under his control,” Farrow wrote. The sums are much larger than the lab previously acknowledged.
The depth of Epstein’s involvement in providing donations and directing them was enshrouded in so much secrecy that Ito “referred to Epstein as Voldemort or ‘he who must not be named,’” Farrow wrote.
Epstein died by suicide at age 66 last month inside his New York City jail cell just before he was set to go on trial for sex trafficking charges involving minors.
Days later, Ito addressed his relationship with Epstein in an apologetic statement, acknowledging that the lab “has received money through some of the foundations that he controlled.”
“I knew about these gifts and these funds were received with my permission. I also allowed him to invest in several of my funds which invest in tech startup companies outside of MIT,” he said.
In his mea culpa, Ito vowed to “raise an amount equivalent to the donations the Media Lab received from Epstein” and direct the funds to nonprofit organizations supporting trafficking survivors.
“I will also return the money that Epstein has invested in my investment funds,” he added.
Responding to the latest news on Friday, Time magazine editor Anand Giridharadas announced in a Twitter thread that he was stepping down from his post as a juror for the lab’s Disobedience Award, which presents $250,000 to “individuals and groups who engage in responsible, ethical disobedience aimed at challenging norms, rules, or laws that sustain society’s injustices.”
Though Giridharadas said the position “seemed like a good idea at first,” he called details of Ito’s ties to Epstein astonishing.
Neither M.I.T. nor Ito have publicly responded to The New Yorker’s report. Read the full New Yorker story here.
UPDATE: This article has been updated to reflect that Ito resigned from his position as director of the Media Lab on Tuesday, and will no longer teach at M.I.T.