Art Market

The director of MIT’s Media Lab apologized for taking money from Jeffrey Epstein.

Benjamin Sutton
Aug 23, 2019 3:44PM, via ArtAsiaPacific

Jeffrey Epstein. Photo Rick Friedman/Rick Friedman Photography/Corbis via Getty Images.

The director of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has issued a public apology for accepting donations from sex offender and alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, who committed suicide in his Manhattan jail cell while awaiting trial earlier this month. In a blog post, Joi Ito addressed his interactions with Epstein, meeting at a conference in 2013, accepting donations from Epstein for the art, design, and technology center, and taking monetary contributions from the billionaire for Ito’s personal tech startup funds.

Though Ito did not specify the sums received from Epstein, the New York Post reported Epstein-controlled foundations gave MIT $800,000 over the course of two decades. Ito has pledged to raise donations equivalent to the sums the Media Lab received from Epstein, and give that money to nonprofits that help trafficking survivors. He also pledged to return money in his own investment funds that came from Epstein.

In the blog post, Ito wrote:

I want you to know that 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. Regrettably, over the years, the Lab has received money through some of the foundations that he controlled. I knew about these gifts and these funds were received with my permission.

Two researchers at MIT have announced they will leave the Media Lab because of its connections to Epstein. In addition to Ito’s financial ties to the accused sex trafficker, the Media Lab’s late co-founder Marvin Minsky has been accused of having sex with a victim of Epstein’s trafficking network on his private island in the Caribbean.

Since its founding in 1985, the MIT Media Lab has become an elite cross-disciplinary research center with an emphasis on art and design. Its offerings include the highly regarded Media Arts & Sciences program, and the Museum of Modern Art’s senior curator of design and architecture, Paola Antonelli, is a member of its advisory council.

Benjamin Sutton