Two educators affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab announced that they will end their relationships with the institute because of its ties to now-deceased sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who had been facing trial on child sex-trafficking charges.
The Media Lab is facing a crisis of sorts after Joichi Ito, the director of the interdisciplinary research laboratory, revealed in a statement that he had previously associated with Epstein and received investment funds from the wealthy financier. He is also a member of the board at The New York Times Co., among other organizations.
In his Aug. 15 statement, Ito said he had met Epstein in 2013 at a conference, “through a trusted business friend.” He said in his fundraising efforts, he invited Epstein to the lab and also visited several of the financier’s residences. Ito said throughout all his interactions, he was “never involved in, never heard him talk about, and never saw any evidence of the horrific acts that he was accused of.”
“Regrettably, over the years, the Lab has received money through some of the foundations that he [Epstein] controlled. I knew about these gifts and these funds were received with my permission,” Ito wrote. “I also allowed him to invest in several of my funds which invest in tech startup companies outside of MIT.”
Following Ito’s apology, associate professor Ethan Zuckerman and visiting scholar J. Nathan Matias said they would end their association with the lab, citing its ties to Epstein as being the cause.
Zuckerman wrote in his statement: “For me, the deep involvement of Epstein in the life of the Media Lab is something that makes my work impossible to carry forward there.”
Matias wrote in his statement: “As part of our work, CivilServant does research on protecting women and other vulnerable people online from abuse and harassment.
“I cannot with integrity do that from a place with the kind of relationship that the Media Lab has had with Epstein. It’s that simple.”
Seth Lloyd, a professor of mechanical engineering and physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also wrote an apology statement over the fact that Epstein gave his foundation a grant to support his research. Lloyd didn’t say he was resigning.
MIT President Addresses Ties
In an Aug. 22 internal email addressed to members of the MIT community and obtained by The Epoch Times, university President L. Rafael Reif divulged how much money the university has received from Epstein over the years, and outlined steps it would take to address the situation.
“Over the course of 20 years, MIT received approximately $800,000 via foundations controlled by Jeffrey Epstein. All of those gifts went either to the MIT Media Lab or to professor Seth Lloyd,” Reif wrote.
He added that the university will commit an amount “equal to the funds” it received to an appropriate charity that benefits Epstein’s alleged victims and other victims of sexual abuse.
MIT graduate Manny Alicandro told The Epoch Times the school’s latest response was too slow, although it’s welcome.
“I’m happy that the school’s kind of taking the steps,” he said in an interview. “I’m just kind of concerned they were kind of late doing it. We have known about Epstein for many, many years.
“There’s a question about Epstein right now in terms of how he made his money: Was it from ill-gotten gains? We just don’t know. So the school was taking it at face value that it was legit money.”
In a 2015 Reuters article, MIT denied accepting any money from Epstein. The financier, who federal prosecutors say was worth more than $500 million, claimed in a July 2014 press release that he provided “critical funding” for scientists at Harvard and MIT to restore five murals by Mark Rothko, and, in a September 2014 release, said he gave money to the MIT Media Lab to teach toddlers computer programming.
The Rothko press release “was simply not correct, and was issued without our knowledge or agreement,” and the toddler press release was also “completely incorrect,” said MIT Media Lab spokeswoman Alexandra Kahn in an email at the time, according to Reuters.
Nearly 2,000 pages of documents relating to Epstein were unsealed on Aug. 9. The documents, from a lawsuit by one of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Giuffre, listed new names allegedly involved in Epstein’s trafficking ring and more details around the claims of trafficking of minor girls by the multimillionaire and his former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell.
The New York City Medical Examiner’s office concluded on Aug. 16 that Epstein died by suicide from hanging in his cell. Epstein’s lawyers say they are “not satisfied” with the results and have vowed to conduct their own investigation into his death.
Epstein pleaded guilty in Florida in 2008 to state charges of soliciting a child for prostitution under a non-prosecution agreement that required him to spend 13 months in jail and register as a sex offender. The agreement has been condemned for ending a broad federal child sex abuse probe involving at least 40 teenage girls, which could have landed Epstein in jail for life.
Epoch Times reporter Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.