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Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has become the latest big name to play an unwitting role in the Jeffrey Epstein saga, based on a new report describing a purported connection between Gates and the convicted sex offender’s efforts to provide funding to a prominent MIT research program.

In a statement, a Gates representative says that “any account of a business partnership or personal relationship” between Gates and Epstein “is simply not true,” and adds that “any claim that Epstein directed any programmatic or personal grantmaking for Bill Gates is completely false.”

The story: The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow reported that MIT’s Media Lab has for years cultivated a deep fundraising relationship with Epstein, who helped secure major donations to the program. MIT had disqualified Epstein as an official donor, however the New Yorker obtained emails showing that the program and its leader Joi Ito continued to work with him and accept donations he facilitated, years after his 2008 conviction for soliciting prostitution from girls as young as 14. The program attempted to conceal has involvement by keeping the donations anonymous.

Ito resigned in the wake of the report. And the scandal has ensnared some of the biggest names in tech.

How Gates figures into this: The New Yorker reports that Epstein, who died by suicide in jail last month while facing charges of sex trafficking, facilitated a $2 million donation from Gates to the Media Lab. Emails obtained by The New Yorker show that Gates, and investor Leon Black donated a combined $7.5 million to the program as “directed” by Epstein.

Gates’ relationship with the MIT Media Lab dates back many years, before Ito’s tenure leading it. Gates has donated extensively to many different parts of the lab over the years.

What Gates is saying: A spokesperson for Gates issued the following statement: “Epstein was introduced to Bill Gates as someone who was interested in helping grow philanthropy. Although Epstein pursued Bill Gates aggressively, any account of a business partnership or personal relationship between the two is simply not true. And any claim that Epstein directed any programmatic or personal grantmaking for Bill Gates is completely false.”

What is the MIT Media Lab: The 33-year-old program brings together research from a variety of disciplines to find solutions to some of the issues caused by technological innovation. More than 80 members, including some of the world’s leading companies, provide the bulk of the program’s $75 million annual operating budget. More than 30 faculty and senior researchers lead the lab’s research program, working with more than 175 research staff members, visiting scientists, researchers and lecturers. Another 100 staff focus on research, facilities and administration at the lab.

There’s a connection to Reid Hoffman too: LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, a Microsoft board member, is another powerful tech figure connected to the Media Lab, and he serves on its Disobedience Award jury. Fellow jury member Anand Giridharadas tweeted Friday that he received a private email from Hoffman defending Ito after he made a request for information on the connections between the Media Lab and Epstein. Hoffman has yet to issue a public statement on the issue.

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