Regrets, Bill Gates has a few.
In an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN on Wednesday, Aug. 4, the billionaire Microsoft co-founder turned philanthropist reflected on his recent divorce and past controversial contact with late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, a relationship he called a "huge mistake."
Bill and Melinda Gates, co-founders of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—one of the world's biggest private charities, announced on Twitter in May that they planned to end their 27-year marriage. Their divorce was finalized on Monday, Aug. 2.
"That's definitely a very sad milestone," Gates told Cooper. "I mean, Melinda is a great person, and that partnership that we had coming to an end is a source of great personal sadness. We are communicating and working at the foundation. And so that partnership, we're going to try and continue."
He continued, "Melinda has incredible strengths that she brings that help the foundation be better. We've always enjoyed our work together. You know, two of us can go out and work with leaders and help build the organization. So you know, that would be definitely the best thing for the foundation."
In September 2019, two months after Epstein was indicted on federal sex trafficking charges and one month after he was found dead in his prison cell, The Wall Street Journal quoted Gates as saying about Epstein, "I didn't have any business relationship or friendship with him."
But in October 2019, The New York Times reported that for years, Gates occasionally met with Epstein and first got to know him in 2011, three years after he pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution from a minor.
Ted S Warren/AP/Shutterstock
Quoting people who were at or briefed on gatherings with the two men, the newspaper also said Melinda expressed discomfort with her husband spending time with the sex offender, and that despite this, he continued doing so. In addition, The New York Times said the Microsoft co-founder's relationship with Epstein was among the factors precipitating Melinda's decision to seek a divorce. The Wall Street Journal reported she had discussions with divorce lawyers in October 2019 around when her now-ex-husband's ties to Epstein became public.
When asked if he ever had any concerns about Epstein, Gates told Cooper, "Oh, certainly. You know, I had several dinners with them, you know, hoping that what he said about getting billions of philanthropy for global health through context 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 them the credibility of, you know, being there. There were lots of others in that same situation, but I—I made a mistake."
Gates' divorce also followed accusations of inappropriate workplace behavior by him, which led to no arrests or charges. In May, The New York Times reported that according to people with direct knowledge of his overtures, he sometimes pursued women who worked for him. Six of his current and former employees accused him of creating an uncomfortable workplace environment, the outlet said. A spokesperson for Gates told the newspaper that "the claim of mistreatment of employees" is "false."
In addition, in 2019, Microsoft's board of directors began investigating a claim he had allegedly "sought to initiate an intimate relationship with a company employee in the year 2000," according to the newspaper. Gates' spokesperson told The New York Times, "There was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably."
In his interview, Cooper brought up the newspaper reports and asked Gates if he has regrets. He responded, "Oh, certainly, I think everyone does. But, you know, I'm—it's a time of reflection and you know, I—you know, at this point I need to go forward. You know, my work is very important to me. You know, within the family, we'll heal as best we can and learn—learn from what's happened."
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