May 5, 2022
Bill Gates Talks Divorce, Jeffrey Epstein, Elon Musk 5/03/22 Transcript
Bill Gates Talks Divorce, Jeffrey Epstein, Elon Musk 5/03/22. Read the transcript here.
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft nearly 50 years ago at the forefront of the computer age that changed the world. Since then, he’s been using the fortune that earned him to change the world, the Gates Foundation giving away tens of billions of dollars over the past decade. He also famously predicted the world was unprepared for a pandemic in a 2015 Ted Talk that was unfortunately accurate and has been viewed now 43 million times.
Speaker 1: (00:25)
Well, he’s sounding the alarm again this morning. His new book How to Prevent the Next Pandemic is out today. It’s also been a year of upheaval in his own life after he and Melinda, his wife of 27 years, announced their divorce one year ago today. So, Bill, we have so much to catch up on. It’s good to see you. Good morning.
Bill Gates: (00:41)
Good to see you.
Speaker 1: (00:41)
Well, I think this is the definition of what they call a hard sell. You’re out here promoting a book, How to Prevent the Next Pandemic, and you know people are sick and tired of hearing about the pandemic. They have COVID fatigue. Why is this the moment to have this conversation?
Bill Gates: (00:56)
Well, I don’t want us to wait until we forget about how awful this has been. I mean we’ve had tens of millions of deaths, trillions of dollars of economic loss, education loss, mental depression. With a few key steps, we can make sure this won’t happen again.
Speaker 1: (01:14)
There’s something strangely optimistic about this book. You’ve got a whole bunch of ideas on how to actually prevent the next pandemic. One idea, you compare it to firefighters. We need a global firefighting team that’s ready to find the next pandemic and respond to it. How would it work?
Bill Gates: (01:32)
Well, in firefighting, we’re all trained to know that there’s the exit. The US alone has over 300,000 full-time firefighters. So we take it seriously, because if one house burns down, it can affect an entire community. Pandemics are even worse.
Bill Gates: (01:49)
We didn’t practice. We weren’t ready to go. A few countries that were more ready, like Australia, have 10% the deaths that we have. So the debate about exactly how to invest in that preparedness, now is the right time, even though we’re still trying to get out of this one.
Speaker 1: (02:07)
Yeah. You’ve argued that basically disease is inevitable, but pandemics are not. If you spend billions, now you save trillions later. Is that a pretty good summary of the book?
Bill Gates: (02:18)
Yup, big returns.
Speaker 1: (02:19)
Tell me about … You have this germ team that you propose. We have the World Health Organization. Why isn’t that enough?
Bill Gates: (02:26)
Well, they’re not funded actually to go to countries and practice. They’re not funded to fly in where there’s an outbreak. So they need about a billion a year, 3,000 more people that would stay dedicated to pandemics. Pandemics don’t come very often. So it’s easy to take your personnel and go work on other things. Here we’d make sure that this team had those skills and was always practicing.
Speaker 1: (02:51)
By the way, in some ways we were lucky with this pandemic. It certainly could have been a more contagious virus and it could have been more lethal.
Bill Gates: (02:58)
Yeah. The lethality ends up being about 0.3%. Smallpox is 30%. So this is not the worst case. All the more reason to make these investments in preparedness.
Speaker 1: (03:13)
When you look at how the US and the world responded to COVID-19, whether it’s masks or vaccines or shutdowns, closures, it’s become so political. I wonder, if it happened again, if it was March 2020, all over again with COVID-19, would we even be able to mount as effective a response as we did last time around? It’s been so politicized.
Bill Gates: (03:37)
Yeah. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get trusted voices in both parties talking about the benefit of masks and vaccines so that it wasn’t a political issue. I think everybody does support the health workers who were heroes. I think they support the innovation where we got the vaccine out faster than ever before, and that has saved millions of lives. Even that vaccine, we can make a better one where you never get infected. So innovation, like in many areas, is where I see a potential for a consensus and for avoiding most of the damage.
Speaker 1: (04:18)
Yeah. The book, if you want to geek out on some of the innovations and where the technology is, the vaccine, you can inhale a pan vaccine, it’s in there. But let’s talk about misinformation, because that has been a hallmark, unfortunately, of this pandemic. President Biden rather famously said last July that misinformation on social media is killing people. Do you agree?
Bill Gates: (04:38)
Absolutely. It’s been weird that vaccines have been attacked as … Being overall in that negative or there’s some conspiracy here. It’s terrible.
Speaker 1: (04:48)
Well, some of it affects you. You’re part of these conspiracy theories.
Bill Gates: (04:52)
That is a very weird thing, that just because I support vaccines to save millions of lives, people are saying, no, I make money from vaccines or that I’m trying to cause death or track or a lot of strange stuff. Hard to understand why that is.
Speaker 1: (05:09)
Well, misinformation is obviously a big issue that a lot of folks like you are worried about. Elon Musk just recently announced moves to acquire Twitter. I wonder if you are concerned about the proliferation of misinformation, given some of his views about expanding what he refers to as free speech on Twitter, and what you think of the acquisition.
Bill Gates: (05:29)
Well, the digital realm has facilitated interesting, but wrong ideas spreading very quickly. We need to innovate so that digital realm is more of a positive thing of getting the truth out and that people are seeing, hey, this is false.
Speaker 1: (05:46)
Do you worry about Elon Musk, [inaudible 00:05:48]?
Bill Gates: (05:48)
Well, Elon, you wouldn’t want to underestimate Elon. What he did at Tesla is amazing, helping with climate change, what he did at SpaceX. Will he this time make that improvement? Should there be laws that strike a better balance of free speech versus conspiracy theories confusing people? Elon thinks he can improve Twitter. Well, I don’t know specifically what it’ll do, but there’s an opportunity, and we need innovation in that space.
Speaker 1: (06:23)
Well, let’s talk about you personally. It’s been a period of transition. It was actually one year ago today that you and your wife Melinda filed for divorce. How have you been coming to terms with this?
Bill Gates: (06:35)
Well, the divorce is definitely a sad thing. I have responsibility for causing a lot of pain to my family. It was a tough year. I feel good that all of us are moving forward now. My oldest got married. Melinda and I are continuing to work together. It was sad and tragic, but now we’re moving together.
Speaker 1: (07:07)
Yeah. She did an interview recently and she talked about times in her marriage she said she was lying on the floor crying. What was it like for you to hear that and to hear it publicly?
Bill Gates: (07:18)
Well, this was a very tough thing. We had a lot of amazing things in our marriage, the kids, the foundation, the enjoyment we had. And so, it’s a very hard adjustment. I know divorces are different, but just a complete change. We were partners, we grew up together, and now that’s different. We’re not married.
Speaker 1: (07:47)
Frankly, there were allegations of extramarital affairs. When she was asked about that in the interview, she said that is a question that Bill needs to answer. So here you are now. Did that happen? Were you unfaithful in your marriage? Is that one of the reasons there was a divorce?
Bill Gates: (08:02)
I certainly made mistakes, and I take responsibility. I don’t think delving into the particulars at this point is constructive. But, yes, I caused pain and I feel terrible about that.
Speaker 1: (08:17)
What have you learned from that? I mean you were someone who has this voracious appetite for knowledge, and divorce is an experience that can be a journey to learning something about yourself and change, hopefully. What have you learned about yourself?
Bill Gates: (08:39)
There’s areas like climate or health where I have expertise, and on personal matters like this, I don’t think of myself as an expert. I should be very humble about … Success has a tricky aspect to it. So I don’t have great advice for other people.
Speaker 1: (09:07)
Yeah. I have to ask you about Jeffrey Epstein. Melinda mentioned that that was one of the strains, your relationship with him. You know what? I guess the question is real simple. I mean why did you continue to meet with him? When you met him, he was already a convicted sex offender. Do you regret that?
Bill Gates: (09:26)
I certainly made a huge mistake, not only meeting him in the first place, but I met with him a number of times. I had a goal of raising money for global health. I didn’t realize that meeting with him almost downplayed the incredibly awful things he did. I learned more about that over time, but I’d add that to the list of big mistakes, including where Melinda’s advice was sound, and I should have followed it sooner than I did.
Speaker 1: (10:00)
You never saw anything where you thought this doesn’t feel right? Melinda had a visceral reaction the first time she met him.
Bill Gates: (10:07)
No, he was a bad person. I had a reason that I thought those meetings would lead to something good, but I shouldn’t have done them.
Speaker 1: (10:21)
Finally, on this topic, you recently gave an interview. You said you’d marry Melinda all over again. She says you guys are friendly. Not necessarily friends but friendly. How do you see the relationship moving forward?
Bill Gates: (10:34)
Well, one of the things we built together is the Gates Foundation. We love that work. We’ve got all the resources I was lucky enough to get. We’ve got Warren Buffett committed, massive resources. And so, making sure that is spent well, save lives. Melinda and I love doing that work together. So I feel very lucky that I still have that with her, as well we’ve got these three incredible kids.
Speaker 1: (11:01)
I know, and I heard they’re all moving out of the house. So you’re an empty-nester for sure now.
Bill Gates: (11:06)
I’ve got a big empty nest.
Speaker 1: (11:08)
All right, Bill. Thank you so much. Thanks for being with us. Again, the book is called How to Prevent the Next pandemic. Chock-full of ideas. It’s out today.
Speaker 3: (11:18)
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