On September 7, MIT President L. Rafael Reif released a statement claiming to be utterly shocked that the university’s Media Lab accepted and covered up donations from convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein for years before his arrest on charges of sex trafficking, allegations that he had raped dozens of women, and death by suicide played out in the headlines. But just one week after that statement, an independent investigation has found officials knew about the donations as early as 2013.
According to Business Insider, Reif admitted in a letter made public on September 12 that school officials “knew in general terms” about Epstein’s 2008 conviction for soliciting a minor and subsequent year in prison. However, they allowed Media Lab director Joi Ito to keep the cash because, Reif claims, they didn’t know just how bad of a sex offender Epstein really was:
“They accepted Joi’s assessment of the situation. Of course they did not know what we all know about Epstein now,” Reif wrote.
Interesting to see how many headlines a rich man’s horrible behavior has to generate before wealthy institutions decide his money no longer spends. The investigation also found MIT knew enough of the allegations against Epstein to prohibit Ito from allowing Epstein to use Media Lab in an effort to rehabilitate his reputation:
“Administration officials were aware enough, however, to bar Ito from using the donations to enhance Epstein’s reputation with public projects, instead directing the donations to be used for equipment and support for lab scientists. The letter stated that Epstein gifts were discussed at at least one of MIT’s regular senior team meetings where Reif was present.
“I am aware that we could and should have asked more questions about Jeffrey Epstein and about his interactions with Joi. We did not see through the limited facts we had, and we did not take time to understand the gravity of Epstein’s offenses or the harm to his young victims. I take responsibility for those errors,” Reif wrote.”
Reif also revealed the investigation found “a letter thanking Epstein for a donation to Seth Lloyd, a professor of mechanical engineering and physics at MIT, that contained Reif’s signature.” A letter that must have slipped his mind last week, when he called a New Yorker article revealing the history of Epstein’s donations and subsequent attempts to downplay them “deeply disturbing.”