Disgraced FTX founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried rejected the notion that he was attempting to "buy influence" with various donations to media outlets before the downfall of his crypto company.
Speaking in his first live interview since FTX filed for bankruptcy at The New York Times' DealBook Summit, Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin grilled him about various facets of the scandal plaguing the once-prominent crypto giant.
Among Sorkin's inquiries were the big-dollar "grants" that Bankman-Fried had given to news organizations.
"You also made big investments in a number of media companies and I think that's raised a lot questions about whether you were trying to buy influence. Can you speak to that?" Sorkin asked.
"I mean, I think media matters a lot and I want to support good media ventures. That was the whole thesis there," Bankman-Fried responded. "And, you know, I don't have like governance over any of these. I wasn't looking for governance over them. I was looking to support journalists doing great work because I think what they do is really important, and I think there needs to be a critical eye on stories."
"Frankly, I think it's healthy for the world that there is real investigative journalism," he added.
It was revealed in the fallout of FTX's collapse that Bankman-Fried had given sizable donations to various news outlets.
He made a $4 million grant to The Intercept, but the publication had only received $500,000 at the time his empire began to crumble.
ProPublica was set to receive a staggering $5 million grant to support "ongoing investigative work on pandemic preparedness and biothreats," but only received the first of three payments before it was put on hold earlier this month, according to an email ProPublica president Robin Sparkman sent to staffers that has been obtained by Fox News Digital.
"Our 2023 and 2024 grants are on hold at this time, according to our program officer. Building a Stronger Future is assessing its finances and, concurrently, talking to other funders about taking on some of its grant portfolio. We expect to have more clarity from our program officer in the next few weeks," Sparkman told his staff.
Vox noted in its coverage of the FTX debacle that Bankman-Fried’s "philanthropic family foundation, Building a Stronger Future, awarded Vox’s Future Perfect a grant for a 2023 reporting project." The project is now on pause, according to Vox.
Bankman-Fried was also reportedly an early investor in the recently-launched outlet Semafor, co-founded by former New York Times media columnist Ben Smith. It is unknown how much money he gave to Semafor.