Photo: Jamie McCarthy (Getty Images for Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)
On Monday, CNBC reported that Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates met with late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in 2013 after Epstein “unleashed an aggressive lobbying campaign” to secure that meeting. On Tuesday, Gates offered his explanation of why to the Wall Street Journal: Epstein knew a lot of rich people!
By the time of the 2013 meeting, Gates was still on Microsoft’s board and Epstein’s controversial 2008 plea deal on Florida state charges of procuring an underage prostitute had been publicly known for years. Gates confirmed the 2013 encounter to the Journal, but said he was “never at any parties or anything like that” (referring to numerous accusations that Epstein ran a massive child sex trafficking ring) and all of his meetings were “with men,” not the young women Epstein was often seen with. Instead, Gates said he had received numerous entreaties to tap into Epstein’s network of moneyed friends for philanthropic reasons.
“I met him,” Gates told the Journal. “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. 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.”
(That Epstein’s money allowed him to shield himself with a circle of rich associates is kind of the point, but okay.)
“Every meeting where I was with him were meetings with men,” Gates continued. “I was never at any parties or anything like that. He never donated any money to anything that I know about.”
The Journal noted that the interview with Gates, although published on Tuesday, took place before a Sept. 6 New Yorker article that detailed financial ties between Epstein and MIT’s prestigious multidisciplinary Media Lab, as well as suggested Gates was involved.
Records obtained by the New Yorker showed that the Media Lab tried to hide the source of the $7.5 million in donations supposedly secured by Epstein for public relations reasons. That included a $2 million donation in October 2014 that director Joichi Ito (who has since resigned) claimed was a “gift from Bill Gates directed by Jeffrey Epstein. For gift recording purposes, we will not be mentioning Jeffrey’s name as the impetus for this gift.” Another MIT document obtained by the New Yorker stated that “Gates is making this gift at the recommendation of a friend of his who wishes to remain anonymous.”
A spokesman for Gates told the Journal, “Although Epstein pursued Bill Gates aggressively, any account of a business partnership or personal relationship between the two is simply not true. And any claim that Epstein directed any programmatic or personal grantmaking for Bill Gates is completely false.”
On Monday, the Associated Press reported that a Gates spokesperson “said the money given directly to the university in 2014 wasn’t dedicated to the program that Epstein was fundraising for,” and that Gates’ office was unaware of any communications between the Media Lab and Epstein regarding this donation.