MIT scientist defended Jeffrey Epstein associate in leaked emails, claimed victims were ‘entirely willing’

Famed Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) computer scientist Richard Stallman is under fire after a leaked email thread showed him defending an associate of the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, claiming that his alleged victims were “entirely willing.”

In the email thread, leaked by MIT alum Salam Jie Gano to VICE on Friday, Stallman argued that the late Marvin Minsky – an AI pioneer who died in 2016 and is accused of assaulting one of Epstein’s victims, Virginia Giuffre, - had not actually assaulted anyone.

“The word ‘assaulting’ presumes that he applied force or violence, in some unspecified way, but the article itself says no such thing. Only that they had sex,” he wrote, referring to an article about Giuffre’s testimony against Minsky. “The most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him an entirely willing.”

US software freedom activist and computer programmer Richard Stallman speaks with French Green Party "Europe Ecologie les Verts" (EELV)'s candidate for 2012 French presidential election Eva Joly at the EELV's headquarters in Paris on December 15, 2011. (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images)

US software freedom activist and computer programmer Richard Stallman speaks with French Green Party "Europe Ecologie les Verts" (EELV)'s candidate for 2012 French presidential election Eva Joly at the EELV's headquarters in Paris on December 15, 2011. (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images)

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According to the timestamp on the emails, the exchange occurred on Thursday.

Gano, who first wrote about the email thread on Medium before leaking it to VICE on Friday, said Stallman was responding to a female student’s email about an MIT protest regarding Epstein’s donations to the university.

In the thread, Stallman then argues the definition of “sexual assault,” “rape” and whether they apply to Minsky and Giuffre’s deposition statement.

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When a student pointed out that Giuffre was 17 when she was allegedly forced to have sex with Minsky in Epstein’s home in the Virgin Islands, Stallman said “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.”

The leak comes as MIT is reeling from mounting criticisms after revelations that its highly acclaimed Media Lab accepted donations from Epstein for many years despite knowing his sex offender conviction – and consciously made efforts to conceal his name from the records.

Ronan Farrow alleged in an expose published in the New Yorker earlier this month that the MIT Media Lab accepted donations from Epstein – and other wealthy donors which whom he served as an intermediary – despite being considered a “disqualified donor.”

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The Media Lab’s director, Joichi Ito, resigned after the expose was published.

"After giving the matter a great deal of thought over the past several days and weeks, I think that it is best that I resign as Director of the Media Lab and as a Professor and employee of the Institute, effective immediately,” Ito said in an email to the provost and president of the university that he shared with The New York Times.

Fox News' Vandana Rambaran contributed to this report.