One of several prominent scientists known to have associated with Jeffrey Epstein has apologized for his contact with the convicted pedophile, saying he didn’t realize the seriousness of his conviction at the time.
“There should have been more conversations about: Should we be doing this? Should we be helping this guy?” George M. Church, a professor of genetics at Harvard University, told Stat News. “There was just a lot of nerd tunnel vision.”
Epstein, who currently faces separate federal child sex trafficking charges in New York, was known to surround himself with scientific luminaries as well as support their work, as The New York Times recently reported.
Church said he first met the multimillionaire financier in 2006, the same year Epstein was first arrested, and went on to speak with him several times, often at meetings or lunches involving other scientists. He admitted that he didn’t closely follow Epstein’s 2008 conviction for soliciting prostitution.
“I did read a couple of news articles,” he said, “but they weren’t clear enough for me to know there was a serious problem.”
He said he suspects that this was the case for other scientists as well, that they “might not have realized the enormity of his transgressions.” This was perhaps aided by much of society welcoming Epstein back after he served his sentence.
“That’s my most generous interpretation,” he said.
Church said he had never spoken with Epstein about his alleged desire to create a superior human race by impregnating women with his own DNA, as was recently reported by the Times. He expressed surprise that he hadn’t been consulted.
“I’d have thought that I would have been involved in that kind of conversation, but it didn’t tend to go in that direction. But also, I think people tend to behave themselves around me,” he said.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.