ABC host divides opinion with 'awkward' question to Bill Gates: 'Amateurish at best'

Sarah Ferguson's grilling of the Microsoft founder over his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein has been hailed and scolded in equal measure.

Tech billionaire Bill Gates has been grilled by 7.30 host Sarah Ferguson about his connections to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in what was an uncomfortable appearance for the Microsoft founder on Australia's public broadcaster.

Ferguson's persistence in her line of questioning has proven divisive, and while the interview certainly had its admirers, some online critics described it as "embarrassing".

Ferguson started her line of questioning by saying his relationship with Epstein has "dogged" him, asking if he regretted the relationship he maintained with the much maligned financier, against the advice of his former wife Melinda.

Bill Gates appeared irritated by the line of questioning from Ferguson. Source: ABC
Bill Gates appeared irritated by the line of questioning from Ferguson. Source: ABC

"You're going way back in time but yes I will say it for the over 100th time, I shouldn't have had dinners with him," Gates replied.

Ferguson continued, saying Epstein "had a way of sexually compromising people" and asked if that's what Melinda had been concerned about.

"No, I mean.... no, I had dinner with him and that's all," Gates said.

Appearing increasingly irritated, he then dismissed suggestion from Ferguson he had "a relationship" with Epstein when asked if he regretted their acquaintance.

"(I regret) that I had dinner with him." Pressing further over potential links between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Epstein, Gates replied: "There never was any relationship of any kind."

Watch the exchange here to make up your own mind:

'Awkward' ABC interview splits opinion

While it was a small section of a wide-ranging interview that covered Covid-19 vaccines, future technological advances and climate change, it was Gates's response to the Epstein questions that emerged as the main talking point.

Sydney's 2GB radio host Ben Fordham on Tuesday morning labelled the segment of the interview "awkward", but admitted Ferguson would have been criticised if she had not raised the matter.

Meanwhile Twitter was awash with reaction in the wake of the interview, with one user thanking Ferguson for "giving Bill Gates the blow torch over Epstein". "Awesome viewing," they said.

Yet others were less than impressed, with one person describing the interview with "the most generous bloke on the planet" as "absolutely cringeworthy". "Embarrassing for the ABC," they added.

"[Ferguson's] ‘gotcha’ attempt on Gates re Epstein was amateurish at best," another said, saying she had "stuffed up".

It's not the first time Gates has been grilled over the meetings in which he says were to discuss opportunities of philanthropy. He told PBS in 2021 the meetings were "a mistake".

Epstein, 66, killed himself in a Manhattan jail in August 2019, one month after being arrested on sex trafficking charges. In 2008 he pleaded guilty to procuring a person under 18 for prostitution.

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