LONDON – The Sunday Times of London called it “one of the single worst PR moves in recent history,” while other British newspapers ridiculed Prince Andrew’s glib answers to questions about his personal relationship with the late Jeffrey Epstein in a blockbuster TV interview with the BBC’s Newsnight program over the weekend.
The newspapers were not exaggerating: The 50-minute interview with the seasoned BBC news presenter Emily Maitlis, who spends most of her time grilling politicians about Brexit, was a slow-motion disaster with Andrew the single victim. Jason Stein, the prince’s PR who was hired in September to navigate the prince’s way out of the Epstein mess, quit earlier this month after telling him not to open up to Newsnight, according to media reports.
More from WWD
- Here They Go Again: Prince Harry Rebukes the Tabloids, as Markle Sues Associated Newspapers
- Arise Sir Ralph: Ralph Lauren Given Honorary Knighthood in Britain
- Newlyweds Harry and Meghan Soak Up the Sunshine at Garden Party for Prince Charles
During the one-on-one with Maitlis, Andrew denied any knowledge of untoward activities allegedly going on at the convicted paedophile’s various homes where the prince regularly stayed; could not recall ever meeting or engaging in any way with Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who said she had sex with the prince multiple times at Epstein’s bidding; said he was flummoxed by how a picture of himself, holding Roberts Giuffre by the waist, came into existence, and argued that on the night he was supposed to have been dancing, and having sex with, Roberts Giuffre in London, he was picking up his daughter Princess Beatrice from a pizza party.
During the interview at Buckingham Palace, the prince even painted himself as a victim, saying that his links to the Epstein scandal had become “a constant sore, a constant gnaw” in the family, with the allegations that he was involved with Epstein’s underage group of women “a surprise to all of us.”
Tearing a page out of Meghan and Harry’s playbook, Prince Andrew said the whole episode had become “almost a mental health issue that has been nagging at me.” He also showed little remorse about his involvement with Epstein, and conceded that his only real mistake was to visit Epstein in 2010 in New York to break off their friendship. At that point, Epstein had been placed on probation after serving 13 months in a low-security prison.
He painted himself as an honorable man, choosing to fly to New York – and stay a few days at Epstein’s home there – so that he could officially end the friendship with the convicted sex offender. Indeed, he admitted that it was “a wrong decision” to go and see Epstein in the flesh, but he didn’t want to be a “chicken” and to call it quits over the phone.
Earlier in the interview, he’d argued that the two weren’t “very close friends,” and that he was closer to Epstein’s girlfriend (and alleged procurer of young women) Ghislaine Maxwell.
The prince added that he did not regret his friendship with Epstein, who had made valuable connections and opened doors for the royal and even argued that their relationship had resulted in “beneficial outcomes” for Andrew in various professional areas.
During the interview on Saturday night, Andrew never mentioned that in 2011 he had been forced to resign his post as special representative for U.K. Trade and Investment due to his relationship with the disgraced Epstein, who committed suicide in prison earlier this year.
The interview with Maitlis, who was clearly puzzled by some of the prince’s bizarre, incongruous answers, came just a few weeks after the broadcast of “The Prince and The Pedophile,” which featured victim statements and photo and video evidence of Epstein’s alleged crimes.
Presented by Cathy Newman, that program detailed the association, connections and meetings that Andrew had with Epstein and the sex crimes he allegedly committed. Investigations into Epstein’s activities, including one by the FBI, are currently ongoing.
In it, Roberts Giuffre recalled a night out with Andrew at Tramp nightclub in London and also detailed an orgy. Roberts claims the prince took part in the orgy with herself, eight other girls and Epstein on Epstein’s private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Roberts says that she was “around 18 at the time,” while the eight other girls “all seemed and appeared to be under the age of 18 and didn’t really speak English. Epstein laughed about the fact that they couldn’t communicate, saying that they are the easiest girls to get along with.”
Asked by Maitlis whether he’d be willing to testify in court about his relationship with Epstein, the prince said he’d have to take legal advice, but that he couldn’t really shed much light on anything. “I’m as much in the dark as other people,” he claimed.