MIT received thousands in donations from Epstein Interests

Media Lab Director Joi Ito releases apology for receiving funds from Epstein

Jeffrey Epstein, the late financier accused of sex trafficking, was a donor to many universities and other research foundations. Epstein’s foundation Epstein Interests donated $50,000 to MIT in 2012, four years after he pled guilty to state charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution, according to BuzzFeed News. 

Epstein also provided funding for the Media Lab. Director Joi Ito released an apology Aug. 15 for soliciting funds from Epstein for the Media Lab. 

Ito wrote, “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. That said, I take full responsibility for my error in judgment. I am deeply sorry to the survivors, to the Media Lab, and to the MIT community for bringing such a person into our network.”

Ito first met Epstein in 2013 “at a conference through a trusted business friend.” For fundraising efforts, he invited Epstein to the Media Lab and visited several of Epstein’s residences, Ito wrote. 

Epstein also invested in several of Ito’s technology startup investment funds with Ito’s permission.

Epstein’s investments in Ito’s funds will be returned, Ito wrote. Additionally, Ito will “raise an amount equivalent to the donations the Media Lab received from Epstein” for non-profits that support survivors of trafficking. 

The New York Times reported that Jeffrey Epstein claimed on his website to have sponsored the research of Eric Lander, MIT biology professor and founding director of the Broad Institute. In an email to The Tech, Lander wrote that he has had no association with and has not received any research funding from Epstein. 

Additionally, Epstein funded a conference on gravity in 2006. Among those invited were Stephen Hawking, Lawrence Krauss, and Frank Wilczek, MIT physics professor and Nobel Laureate, according to The Times

In a statement emailed to The Tech, Wilczek wrote that although he has attended Epstein-funded conferences, he has not received any research funding from Epstein and has seen Epstein “less than half-a-dozen times in my life, never for more than a few minutes at a time and never in a private setting.” 

Wilczek wrote that at the conference, Epstein “listened to a few of the talks, hung out at some of the meals, and hosted one big ‘social’ event.” At the time, he viewed Epstein as an “eccentric rich guy who liked to associate with frontier researchers and foster their work.”

“I was not aware of any of the serious charges against him until quite recently. I was, and am, shocked by them,” Wilczek wrote. 

John Brockman, a literary agent, held dinners to match “his scientist-authors with potential benefactors,” The Times reported. At one of these dinners, Seth Lloyd, MIT professor of mechanical engineering, met Epstein. Lloyd told The Times that “he found Mr. Epstein to be ‘charming’ and to have ‘interesting ideas,’ although they ‘turned out to be quite vague.’”

Lloyd did not respond to The Tech’s request for comment.

Kimberly Allen, MIT’s director of media relations, declined to provide further details about Epstein’s donation to MIT. In an email to The Tech, she wrote that the MIT News Office “does not typically comment on the details of gifts or gift agreements.”

Epstein was found dead Aug. 10 in his jail cell.