Fact Check

Did Bill Gates Say Meeting Jeffrey Epstein Was a 'Huge Mistake'?

The Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist has faced difficult questions over the nature of his relationship with the disgraced financier and convicted sex offender.

Published Aug 7, 2021

Co-chair and Trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, speaks to the gathering during the inauguration of the 8th International Conference on Agriculture Statistics in New Delhi, India on 18 November 2019. (Photo by Indraneel Chowdhury/NurPhoto via Getty Images) ( Indraneel Chowdhury/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Image Via Indraneel Chowdhury/NurPhoto via Getty Images
In August 2021, Bill Gates said his decision to have "several dinners" with Jeffrey Epstein was "a huge mistake."

In August 2021, several news outlets reported that Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft and a billionaire philanthropist, had acknowledged that on several occasions he had met with the disgraced financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, and had described those meetings as "a huge mistake."

Articles to that effect were published by The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, The Guardian and The Washington Post.

Those reports accurately described Gates' remarks, and as such we are issuing a rating of "Correct Attribution."

In a September 2019 interview with The Wall Street Journal, Gates acknowledged that he had "met" Epstein, who was found dead in a New York jail cell while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. However, Gates insisted "I didn’t have any business relationship or friendship with him."

In October 2019, The New York Times reported that:

...Beginning in 2011, Mr. Gates met with Mr. Epstein on numerous occasions — including at least three times at Mr. Epstein’s palatial Manhattan townhouse, and at least once staying late into the night, according to interviews with more than a dozen people familiar with the relationship, as well as documents reviewed by The New York Times.

In 2008, around three years before Gates first met Epstein, the New York financier had already been convicted of, and imprisoned for, soliciting prostitution from a minor.

Gates described his meetings with Epstein as a "huge mistake" during the course of an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, on Aug. 5, 2021. In it, Cooper broached the subject of Gates' high-profile divorce from his wife Melinda, which was announced in May 2021, and finalized in August. The relevant section of that interview can be watched below. The following is an excerpted transcript:

Cooper: ...The New York Times and Wall Street Journal both reported in recent months that Melinda was concerned about a relationship you had with Jeffrey Epstein who, at the time you met him in 2011, had been already convicted of soliciting prostitution from a minor. The Times reported she hired divorce attorneys around the time, in October 2019, when that contact with Epstein became public. Can you explain your relationship with Epstein? Did you have any concerns, was there ever any concerns you had about it?

Gates: Oh certainly. You know, 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. You know, when it looked like that wasn't a real thing, that relationship ended. But it was a huge mistake to spend time with him, to give him the credibility of, you know, being there. There were lots of others in that same situation, but I made a mistake. [Emphasis is added].

Dan Mac Guill is a former writer for Snopes.