WASHINGTON – The director of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology resigned following the publication of a news report detailing his ties to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein and Epstein’s donations to the highly esteemed institution.
An article published in the New Yorker on Friday said that MIT had a deeper fundraising relationship with Epstein than it had previously acknowledged and attempted to conceal the extent of its contact with him.
Joi Ito, director of the Media Lab, resigned on Saturday, according to MIT President L. Rafael Reif.
The article contains “deeply disturbing allegations about the engagement between individuals at the Media Lab and Jeffrey Epstein,” wrote President Reif in a letter to the MIT community. “Because the accusations in the story are extremely serious, they demand an immediate, thorough and independent investigation.”
Reif asked the institute’s general counsel to hire a law firm to conduct the investigation.
Later Saturday, Ito resigned from his seat on the board of directors of the New York Times Co., a position he had held since 2012, the company said.
Ito didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Epstein died on Aug. 10 in a New York federal jail cell of what a coroner said was a suicide.
He had pleaded not guilty to sex-trafficking counts arising from a scheme federal prosecutors said involved sexual abuse of dozens of girls.
In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty in Florida to two counts related to prostitution.
MIT previously said that it had received about $800,000 from foundations controlled by Epstein.
The New Yorker article said that Ito disclosed this week that he had received an additional $1.2 million from Epstein for investment funds he controlled, in addition to $525,000 Epstein donated to the lab.
Additionally, the article said Epstein helped secure at least $7.5 million in donations from wealthy donors and organizations, citing records and accounts from current and former faculty and staff of the lab.
MIT was also aware of Epstein’s history of pleading guilty to charges of solicitation of prostitution and procurement of minors for prostitution, which disqualified him as a donor for the institution, according to the New Yorker.
The article also reported that Ito and other lab employees worked to hide Epstein’s donations and efforts to solicit donations from other individuals.
“The acceptance of the Epstein gifts involved a mistake of judgment,” Reif wrote in his letter. “We are actively assessing how best to improve our policies, processes and procedures to fully reflect MIT’s values and prevent such mistakes in the future.”