No one is telling the whole truth about MIT’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein.

  • MIT isn’t telling the whole truth; in fact they are burying 90% of the story. (That 90% is the donations from Bill Gates and Leon Black, which everybody at MIT who knew about them believed were made at Epstein’s behest.)
  • Bill Gates and Leon Black aren’t telling the whole truth; in fact they’re not even trying. Both of them have confined themselves to extremely terse statements that raise more questions than they answer.
  • Joi Ito isn’t telling the whole truth; instead he’s gone radio silent. Much the same can be said of Neri Oxman.
  • Seth Lloyd isn’t telling the whole truth either, and it’s worth unpacking his Medium post a little to see how disingenuous it is.

Lloyd says that he stands by his previous apology for his “lapse of judgement”. In that apology he says that instead of fraternizing with Epstein after Epstein’s conviction for sex crimes in 2008, he should have searched for and found “the true scope of the allegations against Mr. Epstein”. In other words, he’s claiming that he didn’t know what Epstein was being accused of.

Notably, however, Lloyds previous apology says nothing about the fact that he visited Epstein’s private island after his conviction. Neither does his latest post. What did Lloyd see when he visited the island? We don’t know, because he isn’t saying. But it does seem likely, going by many accounts, that he would have seen for himself the number of girls that Epstein kept there — even if he only spent “a few hours” on the island.

In this post, Lloyd seeks to rebut “the accusation that I hid Epstein’s identity from MIT”. But if you read it closely alongside the Goodwin report, he doesn’t actually rebut any of the accusations.

Here’s what the Goodwin report accuses Lloyd of doing:

  • Accepting $60,000 from Epstein into his personal bank account and not telling MIT about the gift, “in possible violation of MIT policies and certainly in violation of MIT norms.”
  • Knowingly facilitating Epstein’s plan to circumvent any possible MIT vetting process by accepting two small-ish $50,000 donations “to see if the line jingles”. The idea was that $50k would be small enough that Epstein might effectively fly under the radar.

Lloyd basically admits the first accusation. He did accept the $60,000 gift from Epstein in 2006, and he didn’t tell MIT about it, and he thought that doing so was “unproblematic”. This gift arrived before Epstein’s sex-crime conviction, but it’s definitely a bit odd that a tenured professor would accept “an unrestricted personal grant” without telling his employer about it. If it was really unproblematic, why not inform MIT of the grant?

The second accusation is that Lloyd made a “decision not to volunteer that Epstein was the source of the donation” in 2012. If you read Lloyd’s post carefully, he doesn’t actually deny this. He says that he put “the donor’s agent” in touch with MIT, and that it was the agent, not Lloyd himself, who revealed that the ultimate donor was Epstein.

The report admits that MIT knew that Epstein was the donor; the accusation against Lloyd is just that Lloyd didn’t volunteer the information that Epstein was the donor. Lloyd says that accusation is “completely false” — but he basically says exactly the same thing. He says that MIT knew that Epstein was the donor, and he never claims to have told MIT himself that Epstein was the donor.

The question for Lloyd, then, is just this: In 2006 and then again in 2012, did you ever affirmatively tell anybody at MIT that Epstein was donating money to fund your research?

It seems pretty clear that the answer is no. That’s why Lloyd is currently facing disciplinary action.

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Felix Salmon was a senior editor at Fusion

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