Prince Andrew went on TV to respond to sexual assault allegations. It didn't end well

There are calls for the Duke of York to step down from Royal duties in the wake of a "disastrous" interview where he "showed no remorse" in discussing allegations of sexual assault and links to pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

A screengrab of Prince Andrew's interview with the BBC

A screengrab of Prince Andrew's interview with the BBC Source: BBC

The British public is not responding well to Prince Andrew's most visible attempt to restore his reputation after accusations he molested women and associated with a known pedophile.

Social media sites Twitter and Facebook are filled with vitriolic reaction to an unprecedented hour-long conversation with the BBC's Newsnight program, in which Andrew insisted he had "no recollection" of ever having met his accuser, Virginia Roberts.

The response on Twitter during Sunday's broadcast was swift.

Royal Central website editor Charlie Proctor tweeted: "I expected a train wreck. That was a plane crashing into an oil tanker, causing a tsunami, triggering a nuclear explosion level bad."

Public relations and crisis consultant Mark Borkowski said: "I have never seen anything so disastrous. For any students of PR that is how not to do it.

"It was like watching a man in quicksand and unfortunately, I don't think anyone would have thrown him a line to get him out."

Following the BBC broadcast, there were calls from the public for Prince Andrew's resignation.

High profile commentary website Royal Central, in which 83 per cent of respondents said he should step down from public duties.

Pizza Express

Several of the Duke of York's responses in the hour-long interview attracted ridicule - despite his repeated assertions he did not remember meeting Ms Roberts, he mentioned an evening he spent at a Pizza Express in Woking with one of his daughters.

No sweat

The Duke of York also mentioned an incident in the Falklands' War which rendered him "unable to sweat" as a reason to refute his accuser Ms Roberts' account of an encounter in which she claimed the Prince had sweated profusely.

The Sunday Times has reported PR officer Jason Stein left his role after advising the Duke not to speak to Newsnight, concerned it may backfire.

Mr Stein was reportedly hired in September to help repair Prince Andrew’s reputation following the heavy criticism he received over his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein. 

Former Buckingham Palace press officer Dickie Arbiter described the interview as "excruciating".

The BBC's royal correspondent Jonny Dymond said the prince was "very damaged" by the interview and the opportunity to clear his name had "failed, badly".

 However, sources close to Prince Andrew have told the BBC he stands by the interview, saying he wanted to address the issues head-on and did so with "honesty and humility".

"I have no recollection"

Britain's Prince Andrew has "categorically" denied having sex with an alleged teen victim of disgraced US financier Jeffrey Epstein, who claims she was forced to sleep with the royal, in an extraordinary interview broadcast on UK television on Saturday.

The prince also conceded his continued association with Epstein after he was convicted of soliciting prostitution had let the royal family down - but that he did not believe it had damaged the reputation of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II.

"I can absolutely categorically tell you it never happened," Andrew told the BBC's Emily Maitlis, on the allegations he had sex with Ms Roberts, now Ms Giuffre, on three occasions.

"I've said consistently and frequently that we never had any sort of sexual contact whatever.

"I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever," he added.

Andrew, 59 - eighth in line to the throne - has been heavily criticised over his links to multimillionaire Epstein, who was found dead in a New York jail in August.

Britain's Prince Andrew at the Cenotaph on Whitehall during the Remembrance Sunday day service in London in 2019.
Britain's Prince Andrew at the Cenotaph on Whitehall during the Remembrance Sunday day service in London in 2019. Source: AAP

A coroner ruled that he committed suicide by hanging, while awaiting trial on federal charges he trafficked girls as young as 14 for sex.

Epstein had pleaded guilty in 2008 to procuring a girl under the age of 18 for prostitution and served 13 months in a US prison before being released on probation.

Nonetheless, Andrew, who hosted him at Windsor Castle and remained in contact immediately following his release, is adamant it has not tarnished Britain's head of state.

"I don't believe it's been damaging to the Queen at all, it has to me," he said, noting "the wider family couldn't have been more supportive".

"It has been, what I would describe as a constant sore in the family," the father-of-two added of the impact on his immediate family.

Andrew said he felt compelled to speak out now.

"It's almost a mental health issue to some extent for me in the sense that it's been nagging at my mind for a great many years."

'The wrong thing to do'

The BBC interview, filmed at Buckingham Palace on Thursday, is the first time the prince has answered questions on his relationship with Epstein. In 2015, he used a public appearance at Davos in Switzerland to deny the claims.

The royal, who repeatedly insisted he was "not close" to the disgraced financier, 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".

A woman who gave Prince Andrew a massage in 2000 has spoken out.
A woman who gave Prince Andrew a massage in 2000 has spoken out. Source: AAP

"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 flat 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."

Andrew also faced questions over staying with Epstein at his Manhattan townhouse shortly after his release from prison.

He claimed it was "a convenient place to stay" and that he did so to end their friendship face-to-face.

"I have gone through this in my mind so many times. At the end of the day, with the benefit of all the hindsight that one can have, it was definitely the wrong thing to do.

"But at the time I felt it was the honourable and right thing to do."

Andrew went on to concede it was "not something that was becoming of a member of the royal family".

"We try and uphold the highest standards and practices and I let the side down, simple as that," he said.

Andrew, who was captured on video during the 2010 stay waving goodbye to a woman leaving Epstein's property, described the property as "like a railway station" with people coming and going.

He also said he was "absolutely sure" he had not received a foot massage from a young Russian woman as one witness had reported.

'Sex slave' claim

Over the years Epstein, 66, hobnobbed with politicians, socialites and celebrities, including Donald Trump before he was president, and Bill Clinton.

After his death Ms Giuffre, who says she was abused by Epstein for years and farmed out to his wealthy friends including Andrew, said "the reckoning must not end, it must continue".

She has alleged she was forced to have sex with the prince three times - in London in 2001 when she was 17, in New York and on Epstein's private island in the Caribbean - which Andrew consistently denied throughout the interview.

But the allegations were struck from the record by a US judge in 2015, who said the "lurid details" were not needed to decide a civil case concerning Epstein.

"He knows exactly what he's done and I hope he comes clean about it," she told reporters after a US hearing on 27 August.

Virginia Giuffre, holding a photo of herself at age 16, when she says Jeffrey Epstein began sexually abusing her.
Virginia Giuffre, holding a photo of herself at age 16, when she says Jeffrey Epstein began sexually abusing her. Source: Getty

But Andrew claimed he was "at home with the children" on the March 2001 night Ms Giuffre alleges they had sex, after earlier taking his daughter Princess Beatrice to a pizza restaurant near London.

Jack Scarola, a lawyer for Ms Giuffre, told The Times Andrew should "submit to an interview under oath with the investigating authorities" who continue to probe whether others assisted Epstein in the US.

"Talking to the media doesn't quite cut it," he said.

The prince said he would "in the right circumstances" but added he was "bound by what my legal advice is".

Sarah Ferguson, Andrew's ex-wife and the mother of his two daughters, defended the embattled royal ahead of Saturday's interview broadcast.

"Andrew is a true (and) real gentleman and is stoically steadfast to not only his duty but also his kindness," she wrote on Twitter.

8 min read
Published 17 November 2019 at 3:20pm
Source: AFP, SBS