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Unmaking of Bill Gates: Covid 19 vaccine views, divorce, Epstein link, alleged affairs taint a tech legacy

Bill Gates is a hard-working tech genius, a quintessential family man and the world's top philanthropist. Or so it seemed before 2021, the year when a divorce, controversy over Covid-19 vaccines and allegations of office affairs surround him.

twitter-logoYasmin Ahmed | May 18, 2021 | Updated 13:08 IST
(Picture: Reuters)

Highlights

  • Recent reports allege that Bill Gates made advances towards women at Microsoft.
  • The reports come just weeks after Bill Gates and Melinda Gates announced their divorce.
  • Earlier, Bill Gates was under fire for his stance on Covid-19 vaccines and related patents.

In world technology, the enfant terribles are plenty. It is considered the price a genius pays. Or in other words, it is what geniuses are: flawed. Steve Jobs. Elon Musk. Mark Zuckerberg. Sergei Brin and countless others. But in the midst of all of them, one man personified perfection. This was Bill Gates. He is considered a genius. He is considered hard-working, as hardworking as they come. He is rich. Like all tech czars, he has his peculiarities.

But at the same time, Bill Gates was and it is seemingly "was" now also a virtuous man, as virtuous as they come. Considered a family man, he "gave away" a large portion of his wealth. This year, however, the image of Bill Gates has taken a beating as controversies surround him.

Gates is facing multiple challenges to his legacy and arguably well-crafted image. His credentials as a philanthropist have taken a beating due to his views of Covid-19 vaccines, on which he has said that the vaccine technology should not be shared with developing countries even as people die around the world. His image as a family man is tainted after the announcement of his divorce from Melinda Gates and allegations that the divorce is because of his Jeffrey Epstein connection. Epstein was a convicted sex offender and a socialite who allegedly procured girls, some underage, for rich and mighty.

Bill Gates affair at Microsoft?

Now, there are fresh reports saying that Bill Gates made unsolicited advances towards women engineers at Microsoft.

In March 2020, Gates stepped down as a board member of Microsoft to dedicate "more time to philanthropic priorities including global health and development, education, and my increasing engagement in tackling climate change."

Over a year later, fresh reports hint that his stepping down could have been due to allegations of his advances towards women employees.

A recent Wall Street Journal Post has stated that Microsoft Board members thought it would be better if Gates stepped down as the board member citing an inappropriate relationship with a former employee. The board hired a law firm in 2019 to investigate the matter following a Microsoft employee who stated in a letter that she had had a sexual relationship with Gates over many years.

Before the investigation was completed, Gates stepped down. Microsoft has not stated what the finding of the investigation found, but their spokespersons have told several publications that even though there was a concern in 2019 that its co-founder "sought to initiate an intimate relationship with a company employee in the year 2000," and the company supported the employee but it was no reason why Gates stepped down.

Meanwhile, Melinda Gates was meeting with divorce lawyers in 2019 to end the marriage with Bill Gates. She was concerned about Bill Gates's dealings with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, as per reports.

A New York Times report from last year suggested that the Microsoft co-founder met with Jeffrey Epstein several times and even stayed late at his New York townhouse. Epstein was also accused of running a vast network of underage girls for sex. Epstein died in prison in August 2019 at the age of 66 while he was waiting for his trial on federal charges related to sex trafficking. Bill Gates's spokesperson said at the time that the meetings between him and Epstein focused on philanthropy.

Image as a philanthropist takes a beating

A documentary based on Bill Gates called Inside Bill's Brain shows how he commits his time to philanthropy by working towards improving sewage conditions in developing countries, eradicating polio, and developing a cleaner, safer form of nuclear power. Then Covid-19 happened.

Until last year, the image of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates known for his philanthropy made headlines for being the centre of conspiracy theories. Some of these included ridiculous talk of Gates installing microchips inside people through vaccines.

This year, however, the Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is hitting the headlines for different reasons related to Covid-19, reasons which are not pleasant and cannot be shrugged off like meaningless conspiracy theories without any evidence.

Earlier this year, Bill Gates expressed his reluctance on vaccine tech sharing with developing countries like India. He attracted heavy criticism, with people calling him a vaccine racist and citing the profit-making side of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In a recent interview, Gates was asked if it would be better to share intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccines with developing countries, to which he replied by saying a straight "No."

Gates cited vaccine safety and security issues, shortage of vaccine factories and gave credit to the US'" grants and expertise" that made it possible for the tech transfer to move a vaccine to developing countries like India. Gates' statement drew criticism worldwide with reports highlighting the profit-making aspect of Gates foundation and also the lack of an open distribution model for vaccine production in the past. This got the attention of many critics, and just like that, the image of the philanthropist and the co-founder of Bill and Melinda Gates foundation was turned into that of a businessman.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has come forth with a statement noting that no barriers should stand in the way of equitable access to vaccines, including intellectual property, but the damage was already done.

Days after this incident, when the chaos was yet to settle, Bill and Melinda Gates announced their divorce after 27 years of marriage. "After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage," the pair tweeted, saying "we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple".

Gates founded Microsoft in 1975 and stepped down as the company's CEO in 2000, saying he wanted to focus on his foundation. He left his full-time role at Microsoft in 2008 and stepped down as board director in March 2020.

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