Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn and one of Silicon Valley's most high-profile venture capital investors, apologized on Thursday for his role in helping to repair the image of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
In an email to Axios, Hoffman acknowledged several interactions with Epstein, which he said were for the purpose of fundraising for MIT's renown Media Lab. Hoffman said he had been told that MIT had vetted and approved Epstein's participation in fundraising, but said his decision to be involved with Epstein was nonetheless a mistake.
"By agreeing to participate in any fundraising activity where Epstein was present, I helped to repair his reputation and perpetuate injustice. For this, I am deeply regretful," Hoffman said in the email.
Epstein's ties to Silicon Valley and to MIT have come under scrutiny in recent weeks, following the financier's arrest on sex trafficking charges and his subsequent death by suicide.
"My few interactions with Jeffrey Epstein came at the request of Joi Ito, for the purposes of fundraising for the MIT Media Lab. Prior to these interactions, I was told by Joi that Epstein had cleared the MIT vetting process, which was the basis for my participation," Hoffman wrote.
In addition to backing MIT Media Lab, Epstein also reportedly helped personally finance Ito's venture capital fund. Greylock, the venture capital firm at which Hoffman is a partner, has denied that Epstein had invested in any funds as a limited partner. There remains the possibility, however, that Epstein invested in Greylock and others through a " fund of funds," which does not have to disclose its investors to venture firms it backs.
According to Axios, Hoffman funded the Media Lab's Disobedience Award for "individuals and groups who engage in responsible, ethical disobedience aimed at challenging norms, rules, or laws that sustain society's injustices," which last year went to leaders of the #MeToo movement.
Hoffman's email was made public only minutes after a letter from MIT president L. Rafael Reif, which also blamed Ito for the university's oversight of Epstein's involvement. The letter reported "preliminary" findings of an investigation that was sparked by revelations that Epstein had funded Ito's Media Lab in addition to his venture capital fund.
Epstein was convicted in 2008 of soliciting sex with a minor, and served 14 months in a Florida prison. In July, he was charged with sex trafficking of minors and conspiracy. He was found dead by suicide on August 10 in his prison cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan after being refused bail.
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