Joichi Ito, the director of an influential academic center at MIT, has resigned after an investigation revealed the lab's administrators had tried to conceal its financial ties to Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein, who killed himself in prison in July, was a convicted pedophile who was facing sex trafficking charges.
An investigation in The New Yorker published on Friday revealed that Epstein secured at least $7.5 million in donations to MIT's Media Lab, run by Ito. Internal emails discovered by The New Yorker revealed Ito helped conceal the donations, referring to Epstein as Harry Potter villain Voldemort or "he who must not be named."
"Because the accusations in the story are extremely serious, they demand an immediate, thorough and independent investigation," MIT said in a statement. "This morning, I asked MIT's General Counsel to engage a prominent law firm to design and conduct this process. I expect the firm to conduct this review as swiftly as possible, and to report back to me and to the Executive Committee of the MIT Corporation, MIT's governing board."
MIT had previously apologized for taking $800,000 from Epstein's foundations over the course of 20 years. MIT's president, L. Rafael Reif, said the money would now go victims of sex trafficking. But The New Yorker investigation found that Epstein had actually secured $2 million from Bill Gates and $5.5 million from investor Leon Black — after his Florida conviction. An MIT official wrote in emails that "Jeffrey money, needs to be anonymous. Thanks," according to The New Yorker.
Separately, Ito disclosed on Wednesday he had received $1.2 million for his own investments from Epstein and said Epstein had donated $525,000 to the lab.
Two scholars already said they would be leaving the media lab at the end of the academic year due to the Epstein connections. Prominent writer Anand Giridharadas cut ties on Friday with the media lab.
Ito also resigned Saturday from the boards of three other influential organizations: the MacArthur Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The New York Times Company.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly characterized the source of the reported $2 million donation from Bill Gates.