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Melinda French Gates Opens Up About Bill Gates' Affair, Divorce, Jeffrey Epstein

"This is painful stuff," the former wife of Microsoft's co-founder says in an interview with Gayle King of CBS News.

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Melinda French Gates is opening up about her relationship with Bill Gates.
James Devaney/GC Images/Getty Images

Melinda French Gates laid out painful details of her divorce from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates in an interview with Gayle King of CBS News that aired Thursday. The discussion included talk of an affair Bill Gates acknowledged with a Microsoft employee in 2000.

"Well, I certainly believe in forgiveness," French Gates told King. "So I thought we had worked through some of that. It wasn't one moment or one specific thing that happened. There just came a point in time where there was enough there that I realized it just wasn't healthy, and I couldn't trust what we had."

The couple was married for 27 years and have three adult children. Their divorce became final in August.  

French Gates confessed to "a lot of tears for a lot of days" and to "literally laying on the floor and the carpet... thinking, 'How can this be? How can I get up? How am I gonna move forward?'"

She added, "You're grieving a loss of something you thought you had, and thought you had for your lifetime.... This is painful stuff." 

French Gates said on the day she wed Bill Gates in 1994, she "never" thought she'd end up getting divorced. "I gave every single piece of myself to this marriage," she said.

When King asked if Bill Gates had more than one affair, French Gates said that "those are questions Bill needs to answer."

French Gates said she is "friendly" but not friends with her ex-husband. The two were seen together at the wedding of their daughter Jennifer in October. They are still running the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, but she has reportedly decided to shift most of her donations away from their joint endeavor.

In a statement, Bill Gates said, "I will always be sorry for the pain that I caused Melinda and our family. I admire Melinda and everything she does to improve the lives of women and girls around the world, and I'm grateful for the work we continue to do together at our foundation."

French Gates said she was no fan of her husband's friendship with late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

"I did not like that he had meetings with Jeffrey Epstein," she said, noting that she met Epstein once and regretted doing so. "He was abhorrent, he was evil personified. I had nightmares about it afterwards. So my heart breaks for these young women. Because that's how I felt, and here I'm an older woman... He was awful."

Bill Gates said in a statement that his working relationship with Epstein was a "mistake that I regret deeply. It was a substantial error in judgment."

King also asked French Gates about The Giving Pledge, a promise from the world's richest families to give away most of their wealth to charity. Gates, French Gates and investor Warren Buffett founded the pledge in 2010, recruiting other wealthy people from around the world to take the pledge.

"If you are lucky enough to be a billionaire, believe me, you can give away half of it and not change your life," French Gates said.

French Gates has her own company, Pivotal Ventures, that funds projects that empower women.  

She noted she's excited for the future and that she is "dipping my toe in the water" of dating again.