Bill Gates downplays relationship with Jeffrey Epstein

Their ties come up again in a detailed New York Times story published Saturday that says the two met many times. Gates says Epstein misrepresented the nature of those meetings.

Michelle Meyers
Michelle Meyers wrote and edited CNET News stories from 2005 to 2020 and is now a contributor to CNET.
Michelle Meyers
3 min read
Bill Gates at Stanford AI conference

Bill Gates, speaking here at Stanford's Human-Centered AI conference, says Jeffery Epstein misrepresented the nature of their meetings.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is playing down his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein following a lengthy New York Times article published Saturday that details their many meetings. 

Gates publicly addressed his relationship with the late financier last month, days after The New Yorker reported that Epstein helped secure donations from several parties, including Gates. Gates told The Wall Street Journal then that he had meetings with Epstein, but only because of the convicted sex offender's connections to wealthy people. And he said he didn't have a business relationship or friendship with him.

Saturday's Times story, however, challenges that premise, saying that beginning in 2011, Gates "met with Mr. Epstein on numerous occasions -- including at least three times at Mr. Epstein's palatial Manhattan townhouse, and at least once staying late into the night." The Times cited interviews with more than a dozen people familiar with the relationship and documents reviewed by the Times. It also reported that employees of Gates' foundation also paid multiple visits to Epstein's mansion and that Epstein spoke with the foundation and JPMorgan Chase about a proposed multibillion-dollar charitable fund.

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.

In response to a request for comment on the Times story, a spokesperson for Gates emailed CNET a statement affirming that Gates met with Epstein and others multiple times to discuss philanthropy and the work of his foundation, "given the prospect of helping catalyze significant increases in charitable giving." But although Epstein "pursued Gates' aggressively," Gates had no business partnership or personal friendship with Epstein, the spokesperson reiterated. "Gates never socialized with Epstein or attended parties with him."

"It's become clear that Epstein misrepresented the nature of his meetings with Gates while also working to insert himself behind the scenes without Gates' knowledge," the statement read. "Over time, Gates and his team realized Epstein's capabilities and ideas were not legitimate and all contact with Epstein was discontinued."

Gates regrets ever meeting with Epstein. "Gates recognizes that entertaining Epstein's ideas related to philanthropy gave Epstein an undeserved platform that was at odds with Gates' personal values and the values of his foundation," the spokesperson added.

The connection between Gates and Epstein first came to light in the New Yorker report about the MIT Media Lab's relationship with Epstein. The report 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, resigned his post a day after that 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, said Epstein secured at least $7.5 million in lab donations, including $2 million from Gates.

Once the world's richest people, 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.

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