MIT Media Lab Founder Said He Supports Taking Money From Jeffrey Epstein

"If you wind back the clock, I would still say, 'Take it.'"

MIT Media Lab Epstein
MIT Media Lab Founder Nicholas Negroponte made conflicting statements about Epstein funding
Thos Robinson/Getty Images
By Kayla Kibbe / September 5, 2019 11:00 am

While MIT Media Lab director Joichi Ito has faced pressure to resign since revealing he accepted research funding from sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, the Lab’s founder said he stands by Ito’s decision. According to MIT Technology Review, Media Lab cofounder and former director Nicholas Negroponte not only said he encouraged Ito to take the money, but also seemed to suggest that he would do it again given the choice.

“If you wind back the clock,” Negroponte said at an all-hands Media Lab meeting on Wednesday, “I would still say, ‘Take it.'”

While some have interpreted the ambiguous remark to mean Negroponte would have supported taking the money even with the knowledge of Epstein’s alleged crimes, Negroponte seemed to contradict that interpretation in a subsequent statement to the Boston Globe. Speaking to the Globe, Negroponte clarified his remarks, explaining that while he defended the decision to accept Epstein’s money at the time, he would not support that same decision in light of the recent allegations against Epstein. “Yes, we are embarrassed and regret taking his money,” he told the outlet.

Of course, at the time Joichi accepted funding from Epstein, who maintained a significant network of intellectual elites and was a patron of many well-known scientists during his life, the financier had already been convicted of procuring an underage girl for prostitution in 2008.

Ito, who first revealed he had received funding from Epstein in August, said he had accepted $525,000 for the Lab from Epstein. Ito apologized during Wednesday’s meeting, saying, “I’m part of the problem when I thought I was part of the solution. I’m that guy that I thought I was going after.”

Negroponte reportedly shared his remarks at the end of what had previously been a calm, somber meeting. Negroponte’s controversial defense shocked his listeners, prompting Kate Darling, a research scientist at the MIT Media Lab, to shout, “Nicholas, shut up!” After Negroponte responded that he would not shut up, Darling reportedly shot back, saying, “We’ve been cleaning up your messes for the past eight years.”

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