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Former Harvard president Lawrence H. Summers met repeatedly with and solicited donations from sex trafficker and financier Jeffrey E. Epstein, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
Epstein also donated millions of dollars to Harvard during Summers’ tenure as University president from 2001 to 2006 — an extension of Epstein’s close ties to the University and several of its affiliates. Even after Harvard stopped accepting donations from Epstein following his guilty plea in 2008, he and Summers continued to meet.
The Journal’s article came days after it reported on meetings between Epstein, Harvard professor Martin A. Nowak, and linguist Noam Chomsky.
According to documents reviewed by the Journal, Summers wrote an email to Epstein in April 2014 asking for “small scale philanthropy advice” for his wife, Harvard professor Elisa New, who was in the process of establishing Verse Video Education, an online poetry project.
“My life will be better if i raise $1m for Lisa,” wrote Summers, who is currently a professor at Harvard. “Mostly it will go to make it a pbs series and for teacher training. Ideas?”
Epstein replied confirming a meeting in Cambridge, and the pair met two days later at The Fireplace, a restaurant in Brookline, for dinner, the Journal reported. The meeting was one of several the pair scheduled that year.
In the years between 2013 and 2016, Summers scheduled more than a dozen meetings with Epstein, several of which were dinners.
In a statement to the Journal, a spokesperson for Summers said he “deeply regrets being in contact with Epstein after his conviction.”
The spokesperson said Summers did not solicit donations for the University from Epstein following his conviction and also did not personally receive money from him.
“Their interactions primarily focused on global economic issues,” she said.
The spokesperson also said New’s nonprofit “regrets accepting funding from Epstein” and later made a contribution “exceeding the amount received, to a group working against sex trafficking.”
University spokesperson Jason A. Newton declined to comment on the relationship between Epstein and Summers, referring instead to a report released in May 2020 following Harvard’s investigation of Epstein’s ties to the University.
The report found that Epstein donated $9.1 million to Harvard from 1997 to 2007 — until the University halted donations from Epstein following his 2008 conviction — and visited campus several times even after his conviction.
But the report makes minimal mentions of Summers’ relationship with Epstein. In fact, Summers only appears in the report one time in a description of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, which was “established in 2003 by Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers following an imaginative proposal by Jeffrey Epstein and Benedict Gross.”
The report likewise only mentions New once, in a footnote acknowledging that one of Epstein’s foundations, Gratitude America, donated $110,000 to New’s nonprofit, Verse Video Education.
“Neither of these gifts was a gift to Harvard,” the report reads. “For that reason, our review did not examine the circumstances surrounding these gifts.”
—Staff writer Claire Yuan can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @claireyuan33.
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