The head of a prestigious Massachusetts Institution of Technology research lab resigned Saturday amid mounting outrage over his financial ties to deep-pocketed sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein.
Joichi Ito, director of the high-profile Media Lab at the Cambridge school, finally exited after reports that lab officials tried to conceal their relationship with Epstein, the convicted sex offender who killed himself last month while awaiting a federal prosecution on sex trafficking charges.
“After giving the matter a great deal of thought over the past several days and weeks, I think that it is best that I resign as director of the Media Lab and as a professor and employee of the Institute, effective immediately,” read an email from Ito to MIT provost Martin Schmidt. Ito provided The New York Times with a copy of his farewell email.
His abrupt departure came only days after Ito announced plans to stay in his position while overseeing “restorative healing” as word of his deep fundraising relationship with Epstein became public knowledge. But things changed Friday, when The New Yorker magazine reported that Epstein actually arranged $7.5 million in donations to the lab.
In addition, the multi-millionaire accused of targeting underaged girls for his perverse pleasure appeared on the MIT campus with a pair of young Eastern European models in the summer of 2015, according to the magazine piece. The women were described as his “assistants,” making other lab employees even more uncomfortable about his ties to MIT.
In a separate email to his lab co-workers, Mr. Ito offered a separate apology: “While this chapter is truly difficult, I am confident the lab will persevere."
According to the magazine story, gifts from Epstein were concealed by officials despite his listing as “disqualified” in the official MIT donor database. Some of his gifts were accepted anonymously, while others were funneled through sham donors, the magazine reported.
MIT President L. Rafael Lief wrote a letter to the university community acknowledging the allegations in the latest story were “deeply disturbing.” The university plans to hire a prominent law firm to investigate the ties between Ito and Epstein.