Bard President Obtained $150,000 From Basis Created by Jeffrey Epstein
Leon Botstein, the president of Bard College, personally received $150,000 for consulting fees in 2016 from a foundation created by Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced billionaire accused of sexually abusing teenage girls, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
In a brief interview with The New York Times, Dr. Botstein confirmed the payment from the foundation, Gratitude America, and said that he donated it all to the college as part of a $1 million gift he gave that same year.
Dr. Botstein, 76, said the rest of his donation to the college came from his personal savings and earnings. He has been president of Bard College since 1975 and earned about $400,000 in 2016.
“I didn’t benefit personally at all,” he said. The money he received from Mr. Epstein’s foundation, he said, “made it possible for me to give as much as we were able to give that year” to the college.
He added: “I’m not a rich person.”
Dr. Botstein had previously said that besides an unsolicited $75,000 gift and 66 laptops, Mr. Epstein had not given any gifts to Bard.
On Wednesday, Dr. Botstein said that he did not disclose the money from the foundation during a previous interview with The Times earlier this month because he was not aware of it. He said “the contract was signed by someone else” so Mr. Epstein’s name did not appear on his records. He said he didn’t remember the 2016 payments until he looked into the matter after being asked by The Wall Street Journal.
Bard College said in a statement that Dr. Botstein gave the $150,000 as part of his “annual 2016 gift to Bard, along with personal savings and the rest of his non-Bard income from honoraria and outside conducting fees, a practice he has maintained for many years.”
It is unclear whether the board of Bard College was aware of this payment. Efforts to interview James Chambers, the board chairman, and other trustees were not successful.
The payment is the latest revelation that gives a deeper look into how Mr. Epstein used his money to buy influence. Mr. Epstein gave prolifically to many charities and universities, including Harvard and M.I.T.
A report in The Wall Street Journal last month showed that Mr. Epstein’s network was wider than previously thought, including figures like the linguist Noam Chomsky and Lawrence Summers, the former Treasury secretary and president of Harvard. Dr. Summers sought money for a poetry foundation, led by his wife, Elisa New, a Harvard literature professor.
Dr. Botstein repeatedly pursued Mr. Epstein over a period of several years, making numerous visits to Mr. Epstein’s Upper East Side townhouse. Dr. Botstein said those visits were all about money for Bard, a liberal arts college heavily dependent on wealthy donors.
“He enjoyed humiliating and dangling prospects,” Dr. Botstein told The Times earlier this month. “He was sadistic. He absolutely strung me along.”
But in a statement on Wednesday, the college said that Mr. Epstein expressed interest in Bard’s music programs and introduced Dr. Botstein, a conductor, to Gratitude America, which had formed an advisory council of experts from different disciplines.
The foundation’s president, Richard Kahn — a longtime adviser to Mr. Epstein and an executor of his estate — invited Dr. Botstein to serve a one-year term on the advisory board as a music adviser, according to the statement. Mr. Kahn did not respond to messages left with phone numbers and an email address associated with his name.
The college’s statement added, “Had the extent and horror of Epstein’s crimes been known, Bard would not have accepted his support.”
Susan C. Beachy contributed reporting.