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Photo: Alessandro Di Ciommo/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Representatives for Bill Gates pushed back on claims Sunday that he left Microsoft's board because of an earlier sexual relationship and against two other reports detailing more extensive ties with Jeffrey Epstein than had previously been reported.

Driving the news: Microsoft said in an emailed statement to Axios that it "received a concern" in 2019 that its co-founder "sought to initiate an intimate relationship with a company employee in the year 2000," but denied a Wall Street Journal report that its board members thought Gates should resign over the matter.

  • "A committee of the Board reviewed the concern, aided by an outside law firm, to conduct a thorough investigation," per the statement. Notably, Microsoft refused to say what the finding of the investigation found.
  • "Throughout the investigation, Microsoft provided extensive support to the employee who raised the concern," the statement added.
  • The New York Times reports that Melinda Gates expressed concern about his relationship with convicted sex offender Epstein and other questionable behavior long before they announced they were divorcing.
  • This included his "handling of a previously undisclosed sexual harassment claim against his longtime money manager" in 2018, according to the Times.
  • The Daily Beast reports that Epstein advised Gates on how to end his "toxic" marriage as he used the disgraced late financier's $77 million New York townhouse as an escape.

Of note: Sources close to Gates have called claims that he had any personal conversations with Epstein in meetings about philanthropy — whether about his marriage or anything else — "simply not true."

What they're saying: A spokesperson for Gates reiterated their statement to the NYT that it's "extremely disappointing that there have been so many untruths published about the cause, the circumstances and the timeline of Bill Gates’ divorce."

  • It called the Times' characterization of his meetings with Epstein and others "inaccurate."
  • The spokesperson for Gates said any claim that he "spoke of his marriage or Melinda in a disparaging manner is false," the statement continued.
"The claim of mistreatment of employees is also false. The rumors and speculation surrounding Gates’ divorce are becoming increasingly absurd and it's unfortunate that people who have little to no knowledge of the situation are being characterized as 'sources.'"

Go deeper

8 mins ago - World

In shift from Netanyahu, Israel tries diplomacy with U.S. on Iran deal

Bennett (R) and Lapid. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/POOL/AFP via Getty

Israel has been trying to influence the Biden administration's approach to the Iran nuclear deal in a series of high-level meetings with U.S. officials, Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: Under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel didn't engage with the Biden administration over the deal except to vehemently oppose it and stress that Israel wouldn't be constrained by it. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his new government also oppose the deal, but are trying to engage with the U.S. on the issue.

24 mins ago - Health

With kids and long COVID, there are more questions than answers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Children, like adults, are at risk of developing "long COVID." But experts are still struggling to understand what, exactly, that risk level is.

Why it matters: As the work to determine how common certain coronavirus vaccine side effects are in children, it's important to balance these risks against the risk of children remaining unvaccinated — which includes their risk of long-term health issues if they get infected.

24 mins ago - Health

Exclusive: New app will help employers verify workers' vaccine status

Photo: Proxy

A tech company is announcing a new health app Thursday that it says will help employers bring their employees back to the office safely by verifying their COVID-19 vaccination status.

Why it matters: The app, or others like it, could be a sign of how employers can enforce vaccination requirements without relying on the honor system or hand-checking CDC vaccine cards.