Divorce puts a lot in perspective, allowing you to look back and reappraise the past with new insight. Perhaps that’s even more acutely true if you’re a high-profile person on the other side of a high-profile divorce that made you a source of much public scrutiny—and apparently finally made clear to you that hanging out with a billionaire pedophile was a poor life choice.
That’s where Bill Gates finds himself now. In an interview with Anderson Cooper on Wednesday, Gates called it “a huge mistake to spend time with” Jeffrey Epstein and “to give him the credibility of being there.” (The full segment is below, the Epstein question begins around 1:40 in.)
“I had several dinners with him, you know, hoping that what he said about getting billions of philanthropy for global health through contacts that he had might emerge,” Gates said. “When it looked like that wasn’t a real thing, that relationship ended.”
He also said, hilariously: “There were lots of others in that same situation.” If by that “situation” you mean palling around with Epstein, boy were there ever!
(Don’t give Cooper too much credit, he started off the interview asking how Gates was doing “on a personal level” after the divorce was made final on Monday.)
The only firm conclusion to be drawn here is that Gates is trying mightily to save his reputation, which, through his foundation, he’s been polishing like a precious gem for years. (Philanthropy, while largely viewed as apolitical generosity, is anything but, and there have been questions about how much good the Gates Foundation is actually doing in the “developing world” for years, and his role propping up the depravities of the global pharmaceutical industry has come under damning scrutiny.)
It’s also important to note the timing in all of this. Gates was still willing to wine and dine Epstein in hopes of securing his philanthropic support—three years after the hedge fund manager had already pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution from a minor. As the New York Times reported in May:
And then there was Jeffrey Epstein, whom Mr. Gates got to know beginning in 2011, three years after Mr. Epstein, who faced accusations of sex trafficking of girls, pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution from a minor. Ms. French Gates had expressed discomfort with her husband spending time with the sex offender, but Mr. Gates continued doing so, according to people who were at or briefed on gatherings with the two men.
So, in October 2019, when the relationship between Mr. Gates and Mr. Epstein burst into public view, Ms. French Gates was unhappy. She hired divorce lawyers, setting in motion a process that culminated this month with the announcement that their marriage was ending.
Your then-wife reportedly had concerns about you hanging out with a known sex offender and you persisted. How badly could you have wanted that money that you apparently set aside your own concerns about how that might look—or worse, had no concerns to begin with?
But hey, at least hindsight is 20/20.