Prince Andrew’s attempt to explain away his friendship with pedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein in a high-profile TV interview degenerated into a farce that threatens to be the British royal family’s biggest public relations disaster since its handling of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997.
#PrinceAndrew trended high on Twitter as Saturday’s hour-long interview with the BBC began airing on prime-time British TV.
Interviewed by Newsnight host Emily Maitlis in a carpeted room, Queen Elizabeth II’s second son gave a wooden display in which he denied sleeping with Virginia Roberts, one of Epstein’s alleged teenaged sex slaves.
He knew the liaison did not happen, he said, because Roberts has referred to him being “sweaty” — and he once had a medical condition at the time that meant he could not sweat.
Also, he remembered taking his daughter Princess Beatrice to a Pizza Express restaurant in suburban Surrey.
Pressed why he recalled this date so clearly, he replied, “because going to Pizza Express in Woking is an unusual thing for me to do, a very unusual thing for me to do.”
The royal, who repeatedly insisted he was “not close” to Epstein, discussed a photograph showing him with his arm around then 17-year-old Roberts, now Giuffre, with Epstein’s friend Ghislaine Maxwell in the background.
Andrew cast doubt on the picture’s veracity, which he described as “a photograph of a photograph of a photograph.”
“I don’t believe that photograph was taken in the way that has been suggested,” he said, claiming he had never been in the upstairs area of Maxwell’s London apartment where it was taken. “Nobody can prove whether or not that photograph has been doctored but I don’t recollect that photograph ever being taken.”
The prince’s answers — particularly on why he decided to stay in Epstein’s New York mansion for four days in 2010 because it was “convenient” — will probably place him in the public domain for weeks or longer.
On Twitter, quiz show host Richard Osman mused that “he’s just too thick to even lie properly,” while Craig Oliver, the former communications chief for former British prime minister David Cameron, said: “It will go down as one of the worst PR decisions ever — proof you really can make things a lot worse when you try to explain yourself.”
The interview dominated yesterday’s front pages, with several focusing on the prince’s apparent lack of regret.
“Not one single word of remorse,” said the Mail on Sunday — a headline echoed by the Sunday Mirror, which said: “No sweat... and no regret.”
The prince “seemed unconcerned by the seriousness of the matter, laughing and smiling at several points during the interview ... and expressed no regrets or concern about Epstein’s victims,” the Guardian said.
Additional reporting by AFP
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