Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates says he had meetings with financier Jeffrey Epstein, but only because of the convicted sex offender's connections to wealthy people. Gates offered his explanation to The Wall Street Journal just days after The New Yorker reported that Epstein helped secure donations from several parties, including Gates.
"I met him. I didn't have any business relationship or friendship with him. I didn't go to New Mexico or Florida or Palm Beach or any of that," Gates told the Journal in an interview published Tuesday. "There were people around him who were saying, hey, if you want to raise money for global health and get more philanthropy, he knows a lot of rich people."
Epstein died in August of an apparent suicide in jail while facing federal sex-trafficking charges. Federal prosecutors in New York alleged Epstein sexually abused and exploited dozens of underage girls as young as 14.
The connection between the two was reported as part of a report about the scandal over the MIT Media Lab's relationship with Epstein. The New Yorker reported Friday that said the Media Lab had a deeper funding relationship with Epstein than it had previously acknowledged and worked to disguise its contacts with the disgraced financier.
Joi Ito, the Media Lab's director,on Saturday, a day after the report was published. He also stepped down as a professor and employee of MIT.
The New Yorker report, which cites internal MIT records and information from present and former Media Lab faculty and staff, says Epstein secured at least $7.5 million in lab donations, including $2 million from Gates.
Gates told the Journal that women were never present when he had meetings with Epstein.
"Every meeting where I was with him were meetings with men," Gates said. "I was never at any parties or anything like that. He never donated any money to anything that I know about."
Once the world's richest person, the software entrepreneur-turned-philanthropist, along with his wife, established the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000 to donate the bulk of their fortune to improving health care and reducing poverty around the world. The foundation has an endowment of nearly $50 billion.