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Head of Prestigious University Lab Resigns Over Epstein

MIT media lab director Joi Ito is out amid accusations he tried to hide big donations
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 7, 2019 2:54 PM CDT
A file photo of Jeffrey Epstein.   (New York State Sex Offender Registry via AP, File)

(Newser) – The Jeffrey Epstein scandal has brought down the head of a prestigious university research lab. Joi Ito resigned Saturday as director of the MIT Media Lab amid accusations that he accepted big donations from the disgraced financier and then tried to cover them up, reports the New York Times. His resignation comes one day after a bombshell report from Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker detailing those accusations. Both stories report that Ito continued to solicit and accept donations from Epstein—or from other rich donors Epstein encouraged—long after the financier's sexual impropriety came to light. One such donation was $2 million from Bill Gates in 2014. “For gift recording purposes, we will not be mentioning Jeffrey’s name as the impetus for this gift," wrote Peter Cohen, one of Ito's underlings, in an email at the time.

A former lab official from 2014 to 2016 tells the Times that she expressed her "disgust" about the lab's strong links with Epstein to her supervisors. “That was never listened to,” says Signe Swenson, who shared lab emails about the Epstein donations with the newspaper. In one of those emails, Ito himself discusses a $100,000 donation from Epstein and instructs staffers "to make sure this gets accounted for as anonymous." Ito says the New Yorker article is "full of factual errors," and his resignation statement does not explicitly mention the scandal. “After giving the matter a great deal of thought over the past several days and weeks, I think that it is best that I resign as director of the media lab and as a professor and employee of the Institute, effective immediately,” he wrote to university provost Martin Schmidt. (Read more Jeffrey Epstein stories.)

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