Epstein became a frequent donor to the lab after meeting Ito in 2013. But after those financial ties became public following Epstein’s death by suicide Aug. 10, Ito apologized, saying in a statement Aug 15 that he was “deeply sorry,” and that “in all of my interactions with Epstein, I was never involved in, never heard him talk about, and never saw any evidence of the horrific acts that he was accused of.”
However, Farrow reports that Ito was aware not only of the accusations of sexual misconduct, but that Epstein had been formally disqualified as a donor by the university due to his 2008 sex-trafficking conviction.
According to Farrow, Ito took active measures to ensure his colleagues at the university would not find out about the relationship with Epstein. They included instructing subordinates to list Epstein’s donations as anonymous, according to emails printed in the New Yorker.
Ito allowed Epstein to visit the lab, and he and his subordinates made certain his name was never included on any calendar, according to a former lab employee, Signe Swenson, who spoke to Farrow. Swenson told Farrow she expressed concerns about the relationship with Epstein on more than one occasion and eventually quit over it.
Farrow also reports that Ito credited Epstein with facilitating several million dollars in donations from high-profile donors including Bill Gates. In a statement provided to the New Yorker, a representative for Gates denied any connection between Epstein and Gates’ donations to the Media Lab.
Ito did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TheWrap. Representatives for the MIT Media Lab, MIT, and Bill Gates also did not immediately respond to requests for comment from TheWrap.
The news comes two weeks after Ethan Zuckerman resigned as director of the Media Lab’s Center for Civic Media. Zuckerman, a media scholar and internet activist, cited the group’s work on social justice and “on the inclusion of marginalized individuals” for his decision. “It’s hard to do that work with a straight face in a place that violated its own values so clearly in working with Epstein and in disguising that relationship,” he wrote in a Medium post.
Zuckerman also said he had learned the research group’s ties to Epstein “went much deeper” than had been disclosed previously.