Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 12 December 2019

Mixed response to Prince Andrew’s Epstein interview

Newspapers criticise prince for failing to show enough empathy for convicted sex-offender’s victims

Prince Andrew, Duke of York said in a BBC interview that he doesn’t remember a woman who has accused him of sexually exploiting her in encounters arranged by Jeffrey Epstein. AP Photo
Prince Andrew, Duke of York said in a BBC interview that he doesn’t remember a woman who has accused him of sexually exploiting her in encounters arranged by Jeffrey Epstein. AP Photo

There was mixed response on Sunday to Prince Andrew’s denial of having been introduced to a young woman by Jeffrey Epstein.

In a rare interview with BBC Newsnight, which was broadcast late on Saturday, Andrew said he could not remember meeting Virginia Roberts Giuffre.

Some of Britain’s newspapers criticised him for defending his friendship with Epstein and for failing to show enough empathy for the convicted sex offender’s victims.

Ms Giuffre says Epstein flew her around the world on private planes to be with powerful men, and that she met Andrew in London, New York and in the US Virgin Islands.

The BBC’s Emily Maitlis grilled Andrew on the details of an alleged encounter in March of that year, when Ms Giuffre says she dined with the prince in London, danced with him at the Tramp nightclub, then stayed with him at a house in the London neighbourhood of Belgravia.

“I can absolutely, categorically tell you it never happened,” said Andrew, 59.

He said he had “no recollection” of ever meeting Ms Giuffre.

The New York medical examiner ruled Epstein’s death a suicide last summer. He had been in prison awaiting trial on federal sex-trafficking charges, which he had denied.

Years earlier, Epstein pleaded guilty to state charges in Florida of solicitation of prostitution involving a minor.

While Andrew defended his friendship with Epstein before the Florida case, he said he regretted staying at the financier’s home in Manhattan after Epstein’s conviction.

“That’s the bit that I kick myself for on a daily basis, because it was not something that was becoming of a member of the royal family," Andrew said.

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

He said the encounter with Ms Giuffre in London could not have occurred on that date because he had taken his daughter, Princess Beatrice, to a party at a Pizza Express restaurant in the London suburb of Woking that day.

Andrew also disputed other details of Ms Giuffre’s account.

His statements attracted ridicule on social media, with one commenter adding a giant slice of pizza to a photo of the prince and Epstein walking through New York’s Central Park.

One Twitter user captured the reaction of many by posting a video of a man pouring petrol on a fire under the headline, “#Prince Andrew.”

But it was his failure to show enough compassion for Epstein’s victims that earned Andrew the most scorn.

“Astonished nation watches prince squirm,’’ the Mail on Sunday said in a front-page headline. “Many viewers shocked by ‘total lack of empathy'.”

Andrew’s decision to grant the interview went against royal tradition.

When the royals speak at all, they usually offer carefully considered comments about charitable works.

Kate Williams, a specialist in royal history at Reading University, said the interview might have harmed the prince's reputation.

“The Royal Household today will be in damage-control mode,,’’ Ms Williams said.

Queen Elizabeth II’s second son, who is eighth in line to the throne, did have some defenders.

His former wife, Sarah Ferguson, said before the BBC interview that it “is so rare to meet people that are able to speak from their hearts with honesty and pure real truth".

“Andrew is a true and real gentleman and is stoically steadfast to not only his duty but also his kindness and goodness,” she said.

The prince didn’t rule out co-operating with the continuing US investigation into Epstein’s associates, saying he would follow his lawyers’ advice.

“If push came to shove and the legal advice was to do so, then I would be duty-bound to do so,” the prince said.

Updated: November 18, 2019 03:03 AM

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