How Jeffrey Epstein Used Philanthropy to Worm His Way Into Powerful Circles


Investigative journalist Vicky Ward explores philanthropy's "Achilles' heel" in a new podcast, Chasing Ghislaine.

As the world now knows, one of the more surprising names to have popped up around Jeffrey Epstein is Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. It’s been reported that Gates flew on Epstein’s plane at least once and visited his home on several occasions. More recently, the media has been rife with speculation that one of the causes of Gates’s divorce from his wife Melinda was his relationship with Epstein. But the depth of their friendship is not fully known.

When I asked a spokesperson for the Gates Foundation how the two men met, I was told that many people encouraged Gates to meet with Epstein, suggesting that he could bring enormous resources to critical health initiatives.

Gates touched on the subject himself at a New York Times Dealbook conference in 2019. “I made a mistake in judgment in that I thought those discussions would lead literally to billions of dollars going to global health. Turned out that was a bad judgment, that was a mirage,” he said, adding, “I gave him some benefit by the association.”

One of the questions that I hear repeatedly is: How on earth could someone like Gates ever have been exposed to Jeffrey Epstein after he was convicted as a sex offender. (Epstein was prosecuted on state charges of soliciting a prostitute and a minor in 2008.)

Difficult as this is to swallow, what I learned talking to people who worked with or around the financier is that part of Epstein’s genius (I hate to use that word, but it’s appropriate) was manipulation. In particular, he had a unique ability to use philanthropy as a tool to worm his way into circles where he otherwise might not have been invited.

Over and over again Epstein found a human conduit—usually a scientist or researcher—whom he would manipulate into helping him gain entrance to a world, that under any other circumstances, would or should be closed to him. This of course is the dark side of philanthropy, the part that few people want to talk about, but, talk to enough of the scientists who got to know Epstein and they will tell you, it is its Achilles heel.

To hear about the people Epstein used to gain access, tune into Chasing Ghislaine starting on July 15.