The Slatest

Director of MIT’s Media Lab Resigns After Jeffrey Epstein Ties Revealed

Joichi Ito, Director of the MIT Media Lab, speaks onstage at The New York Times New Work Summit on March 1, 2016 in Half Moon Bay, California.
Joichi Ito, Director of the MIT Media Lab, speaks onstage at The New York Times New Work Summit on March 1, 2016 in Half Moon Bay, California. Kimberly White/Getty Images

The director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab stepped down Saturday, shortly after reports revealed how he had tried to hide ties to late financier Jeffrey Epstein. “After giving the matter a great deal of thought over the past several days and weeks, I think that it is best that I resign as director of the media lab and as a professor and employee of the Institute, effective immediately,” Joichi Ito, wrote in an email to the provost of MIT, Martin A. Schmidt. The resignation came a day after The New Yorker revealed the lengths that Ito and others took to hide the ties between the prestigious Media Lab and Epstein.

Writing in The New Yorker, Ronan Farrow reported on dozens of pages of emails and other documents that revealed how the Media Lab continued to accept gifts from Epstein and consulted him on how to use the cash long after he was officially “disqualified” from the university’s donor database after he pleaded guilty in 2008 of soliciting sex from a minor.
Epstein didn’t just donate money to the Media Lab, he also helped solicit donations from powerful people, including a $2 million gift from Bill Gates. Overall Epstein was credited with securing at least $7.5 million in donations but everyone seemed to know that the disgraced financier’s role had to be kept secret so he was often referred to as Voldemort or “he who must not be named.”

Although MIT had already recognized that it received money from Epstein, it turns out the relationship between the financier and the university went much deeper than what they first acknowledged. This past week, Ito acknowledged he accepted $525,000 of Epstein’s money for the Media Lab and $1.2 million for his personal investment fund. Before then, Ito and others at the Media Lab took lots of steps to hide Epstein’s association with his contributions recorded as coming form an anonymous donor. Although Ito’s calendar usually listed the first and last name of the people who participated in meetings, Epstein was only identified by his initials.

Gates pushed back on Saturday afternoon in an effort to distance himself from Epstein. “Epstein was introduced to Bill Gates as someone who was interested in helping grow philanthropy. Although Epstein pursued Bill Gates aggressively, any account of a business partnership or personal relationship between the two is simply not true,” a spokesman said in a statement. “And any claim that Epstein directed any programmatic or personal grant making for Bill Gates is completely false.”

Ito has been a board member of the New York Times since 2012. He is also on the board of the MacArthur Foundation and the Knight Foundation.