Visiting MIT Scientist Resigns After Controversial Remarks Defending Jeffrey Epstein
CAMBRIDGE – Less than one month after it was revealed that MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito had received financial backing from accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, another faculty member associated with the Unversity has tendered his resignation.
"I am resigning effective immediately from my position in CSAIL at MIT," wrote Richard Stallman, a visiting scientist at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, in a public post to the MIT community on his blog Monday evening. "I am doing this due to pressure on MIT and me over a series of misunderstandings and mischaracterizations.”
“Headlines say that I defended Epstein. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve called hm a ‘serial rapist’ and said that he deserved to be imprisoned. But many people now believe I defended him -- and other inaccurate claims -- and feel a real hurt because of what they believe I said.” This is what Stallman wrote in an alleged email to the CSAIL department circulated in the wake of his announcement. The Free Software Foundation, a nonprofit Stallman founded in 1985, also confirmed the open software advocate would also be stepping down from his position as director.
Stallman’s resignation comes after a series of emails to the MIT CSAIL list were made public by MIT mechanical engineer Selam Giano in which the visiting scientist defended AI pioneer Marvin Minsky after Epstein trafficking victim Virginia Giuffre testified she was sexually assaulted by the late MIT professor when she was only 17.
“The word “assaulting” presumes that he applied force or violence,” read one email. “We can imagine many scenarios, but the most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him as entirely willing. Assuming she was being coerced by Epstein, he would have had every reason to tell her to conceal that from most of his associates.”
Epstein, who died in prison last month while awaiting trial, was facing federal charges of sex trafficking and sexual abuse of minors between 2002 to 2005.
“I think it is morally absurd to define “rape” in a way that depends on minor details such as which country it was in or whether the victim was 18 years old or 17,” Stallman continued.
The email wasn’t the first time the digital pundit has made controversial claims regarding sexual abuse. “I am skeptical of the claim that voluntarily pedophilia harms children,” Stallman wrote in a public post on his blog dated June 5, 2006. “The arguments that it causes harm seem to be based on cases which aren't voluntary, which are then stretched by parents who are horrified by the idea that their little baby is maturing.”
“I think that everyone age 14 or above ought to take part in sex, though not indiscriminately. (Some people are ready earlier),” reads another public post dated May 25, 2003. “It is unnatural for humans to abstain from sex past puberty, and while I wouldn't try to pressure anyone to participate, I certainly encourage everyone to do so.”
CSAIL department director Dainela Rus confirmed Stallman’s resignation to TechCrunch earlier this week, indicating MIT was in the process of developing a transition plan for his absence.
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