Director of MIT Media Lab steps down in wake of Epstein revelations

Institution tried to conceal extent of connections to financier, says New Yorker article

Joi Ito previously apologised for having accepted donations from Epstein and had said he would raise an amount equivalent to the donations the lab received from foundations controlled by Epstein. Photograph: Phillip Faraone/Getty  for WIRED25

Joi Ito previously apologised for having accepted donations from Epstein and had said he would raise an amount equivalent to the donations the lab received from foundations controlled by Epstein. Photograph: Phillip Faraone/Getty for WIRED25

 

The director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT)Media Lab stepped down on Saturday after a New Yorker magazine article revealed the lab tried to conceal donations from disgraced late financier Jeffrey Epstein, the university said.

“This afternoon, Joi Ito submitted his resignation as Director of the Media Lab and as a professor and employee of the Institute,” MIT president Rafael Reif said in a letter posted online.

The New York Times and New Yorker reported Mr Ito said in an internal email, “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.”

Last month, Mr Reif said the elite university would review its process for accepting donations after taking about $800,000 (€718,616) from foundations controlled by Epstein, who committed suicide while in jail awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

The New Yorker article uncovered deeper fundraising ties between the Media Lab and Epstein and said the institution had actively tried to conceal the extent of its connections with the disgraced financier.

Previous apologies

On Saturday, Reif described the acceptance of contributions from Epstein as a “mistake of judgment” and said he had instructed MIT’s general counsel to bring in a prominent law firm to investigate the matter.

“Because the accusations in the [New Yorker] story are extremely serious, they demand an immediate, thorough and independent investigation,” Reif said.

Mr Ito previously apologised for having accepted donations from Epstein and had said he would raise an amount equivalent to the donations the lab received from foundations controlled by Epstein and “direct those funds to non-profits that focus on supporting survivors of trafficking.”

The New Yorker said Mr Ito disclosed this week he received a further $1.2 million (€1.3 million) from Epstein for investment funds under Mr Ito’s control and $525,000 (€471,591) for the lab. Epstein also secured $7.5 million (€6.7 million) in donations for the lab from other wealthy individuals.

On Saturday, Mr Ito also resigned from the board of directors of The New York Times Co and of PureTech, a biotechnology firm, according to statements from the two companies. – Reuters