Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab director, Joi Ito, who resigned after a bombshell report revealed he pocketed millions in donations from convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, has stepped down from The New York Times Company’s board of directors on Monday.
Documents obtained by reporter Ronan Farrow show the MIT lab director used the elite university’s media lab to accrue over $1.7 million in donations from Epstein and marked them as anonymous to avoid “disclosing their full, extent publicly and within the university.”
Epstein was listed as “disqualified” in M.I.T’s official donor base, yet the Media Lab concealed Epstein’s donations by marking the sex offender’s contributions as “anonymous.”
“Perhaps most notably, Epstein appeared to serve as an intermediary between the lab and other wealthy donors, soliciting millions of dollars in donations from individuals and organizations, including the technologist and philanthropist Bill Gates and the investor Leon Black,” Farrow reported for The New Yorker.
Citing dozens of pages of emails and interviews, Farrow confirmed the disgraced financier assisted Ito in securing at least $7.5 million from well-heeled donors for the school, an estimated $2 million from Gates and $5.5 million from Black.
Though Ito and Epstein’s plan drew $7.5 million from Black and Gates, they had planned to raise much more. Epstein had suggested at one point that the John Templeton Foundation could match any donations dollar for dollar. Unfortunately for Ito and Epstein, a spokesperson for the Foundation could find no record of Epstein’s plan, and provided no funding, according to Farrow.
Obscuring Ito’s ties with Epstein was a collaborative effort by the lab, Ronan explained.
“The effort to conceal the lab’s contact with Epstein was so widely known that some staff in the office of the lab’s director, Joi Ito, referred to Epstein as Voldemort or ‘he who must not be named,’” Farrow continued, referencing the villain in J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series.
A former development associate with the lab, Signe Swenson who was prompted to resign in 2016 because of Epstein’s involvement, told Ronan the lab’s executive team explicitly warned the staff Epstein’s donations were to be kept secret and listed as “small gifts anonymously.”
Women staffers feared for their safety, Swenson said.
In August, MIT admitted the university accepted $800,000 from Epstein’s foundations over the course of 20 years.
“With hindsight, we recognize with shame and distress that we allowed MIT to contribute to the elevation of his reputation, which in turn served to distract from his horrifying acts. No apology can undo that,” MIT’s president, L. Rafael Reif, said in a statement.
Last month, Epstein died in his prison cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City, allegedly from suicide as he awaited trial for sexual abuse and sex trafficking of dozens of under-aged girls.
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