Gates said that he had dinner with Epstein several times in the hopes that "what he said about getting billions of philanthropy for global health through contacts he had might emerge."
However, "When it looked like that wasn’t a real thing that relationship ended," Gates explained.
"It was a huge mistake to spend time with him, to give him the credibility of being there," the 65-year-old admitted. "You know, there were lots of others in that same situation, but I made a mistake."
Gates and Epstein reportedly first met in 2011.
Epstein died in August 2019. He was found in his jail cell in Manhattan and his death was reportedly an apparent suicide, only one month after he was arrested on sex trafficking charges.
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Gates also briefly opened up about his divorce from Melinda Gates and what it means for their shared foundation. Gates said the split was "definitely a very sad milestone" and "Melinda is a great person and that partnership that we had coming to an end is a source of great personal sadness."
The estranged couple uses the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to lend a hand when it comes to global health issues. It was recently reported that it would be decided by the family over the next two years if they will continue to work together when it comes to the foundation.
"I’ve always enjoyed our work together," Gates said on CNN. "You know the two of us can go out and work with leaders and help build the organization, so that would be definitely the best thing for the foundation."
"Melinda has incredible strengths that she brings that help the foundation be better," the philanthropist said.
Gates stepped down from the Microsoft board of directors in 2020. A representative for Gates previously told The Wall Street Journal that while there "was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably. Bill's decision to transition off the board was in no way related to this matter. In fact, he had expressed an interest in spending more time on his philanthropy starting several years earlier."
"At this time I need to go forward, my work is very important to me. Within the family, we’ll heal as best we can and learn from what’s happened," Gates told CNN.