The director of the MIT Media, Lab Joi Ito, has apologized for accepting funding from the financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
In a statement published on the MIT Media Lab website last week, Ito said he had taken donation and investment money from Epstein, who was found dead in his cell in Manhattan after being charged for sex trafficking, both for the MIT Media Lab and for several of his own investment funds, which support tech startups. “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 wrote.
He disclosed that he met Epstein in 2013 through who he described as a “trusted business friend” and spent time with the alleged sex trafficker at several of his residences. Ito denies any knowledge of Epstein’s abuse of underage girls, for which he was investigated starting in 2005. Epstein eventually pleaded guilty to state charges of soliciting an underage person for prostitution in 2008, but the charges were confined to Florida, and Epstein served 13 months in county jail. Epstein was arrested in July 2019 after New York federal prosecutors alleged that he had paid young girls for sex in Manhattan and in Palm Beach from at least 2002 through 2005, paying them more to bring other girls into the sex ring.
Epstein also has ties to other scientific institutions. Harvard accepted a $6.5 million donation, and Epstein also funded the open-source software project OpenCog. Even after his 2008 conviction, several prominent scientists have defended their association with him.
Ito says he plans to return the money Epstein invested in his venture funds and raise an additional amount equal to what Epstein donated to the Media Lab (he did not disclose how much) and donate that money to nonprofits that help survivors of sex trafficking. You can read the full statement here.