In an interview on CNN on Wednesday evening, Bill Gates acknowledged that his relationship with the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein was “a huge mistake,” and he told the host, Anderson Cooper, that his divorce, which became final this week, was “definitely a very sad milestone.”
The New York Times reported in 2019 about Mr. Gates’s relationship with Mr. Epstein, begun after Mr. Epstein had been convicted of sex crimes. The two men met on numerous occasions starting in 2011 — including at least three times at Mr. Epstein’s Manhattan townhouse, The Times reported, citing interviews with over a dozen people and related documents.
“His lifestyle is very different and kind of intriguing, although it would not work for me,” Mr. Gates emailed colleagues in 2011, after their first meeting. A spokeswoman for Mr. Gates told The Times that he “was referring only to the unique décor of the Epstein residence — and Epstein’s habit of spontaneously bringing acquaintances in to meet Mr. Gates.”
On Mr. Cooper’s show, Mr. Gates said: “I had several dinners with him, hoping that what he said about getting billions of philanthropy for global health, through contacts that he had, might emerge. 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 being there.”
He added, “You know, there were lots of others in that same situation, but I made a mistake.”
Mr. Cooper asked Mr. Gates about another article in The Times, which this year reported on his wife’s concerns about his workplace behavior. In 2018, before their divorce, Melinda French Gates had raised issues about her husband’s relationship with Mr. Epstein and a harassment claim against his money manager. On at least a few occasions, Mr. Gates pursued women who worked for him at Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to the reporting.
Asked on Wednesday if he had regrets, Mr. Gates replied: “Certainly, everyone does.” He added later, “Within the family, we’ll heal as best we can, and learn from what’s happened.”
Mr. Gates, the Microsoft founder, has a net worth estimated at $130 billion, and the Gates Foundation now has an endowment of $65 billion, by most measures making it the largest private charitable foundation in the world. Both Mr. Gates and Ms. French Gates have pledged to keep working at the foundation on issues including global health, poverty reduction and gender equality.
“We are communicating and working at the foundation, so that partnership, we’re going to try and continue,” Mr. Gates said on CNN. “Melinda has incredible strengths that she brings that help the foundation be better. We’ve always enjoyed our work together. The two of us can go out and work with leaders and help build the organization. That would definitely be the best thing for the foundation.”
For much of the interview, Mr. Anderson asked Mr. Gates about his views of the state of the pandemic. Mr. Gates praised the efficacy and mass production of the Covid-19 vaccines, but expressed worry about how easily the Delta variant of the coronavirus can be spread.
“We wanted to be nearer the end than we are,” he said, “but Delta’s very bad news.”