Prince Andrew’s BBC interview about his ties with convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein is being described by palace insiders as “one of the single worst PR moves in recent history,” and led to the resignation of the prince’s recently hired PR adviser — who reportedly quit when Andrew decided to go ahead with the interview after he advised against it.
In the interview aired on British television on Saturday night, Emily Maitlis grilled Andrew in a pre-recorded conversation filmed at Buckingham Palace. But Queen Elizabeth was only made aware of the interview after Andrew’s team had already set it up.
Palace sources have told the Telegraph that Andrew’s private office was “operating in a silo.”
“The statement Buckingham Palace issued said the Queen was aware of the interview but not that she approved it,” the source added. “It’s extraordinary how this has unfolded, without any real consultation with the Palace press office or even the Queen’s private office. It does seem as if the Duke of York’s private office is operating in a silo, which is really quite dangerous because there is a lack of accountability there. Internally, this is being seen as a f-**k up.”
A palace spokesperson stuck to their previous statement that Her Majesty was “aware” of the interview but would not add anything else.
According to the Sunday Times, aides to both the Queen and the Prince of Wales regarded Andrew’s decision to do the interview with “incredulity and alarm,” with one source “with connections at the top of the royal household” stating, “There is concern in Buckingham Palace and concern in Clarence House. Charles thinks it is highly misguided. The timing is awful, with a general election going on.”
The Times also reports that Jason Stein, a top PR consultant hired in September to help guide the prince’s media strategy after Virginia Roberts’ accusations that Andrew had sex with her when was just 17, quit in frustration two weeks ago. Stein, states the Times, had charted a course that would involve print interviews and focusing on the prince’s charitable works. Andrew, however, insisted on moving forward with the television interview, which is being viewed as an outright disaster.
“This will go down as one of the single worst PR moves in recent history,” a source close to the palace said. “They’ve dropped it into a news vacuum on a Friday and it will probably still be on the front pages on Monday. They’ve been lulled into a bad play.”
A royal source explained Andrew’s thinking behind the interview. “He is frustrated and exasperated by the whole thing,” said the source. “He thinks the whole thing is unfair. His view is that he made a mistake by going to stay with Epstein in 2010 and he has apologized and that’s the end of it. He can’t remember meeting Virginia Roberts [now Giuffre, who claims she was forced to have sex with Andrew and appears in a photograph with him]. He thinks some of the pictures have been faked. He thinks the public believe that people with wealth and power behave like this when he is not like that. No one seems to know that he’s teetotal.”
In the interview, Andrew insisted that his biggest regret was not cutting ties with Epstein, who is reported to have committed suicide in his jail cell, after his 2008 conviction on charges of soliciting the services of an underage prostitute.
“I kick myself for [it] on a daily basis because it was not something that was becoming of a member of the royal family,” Andrew said. “We try and uphold the highest standards and practices and I let the side down, simple as that.”
Although when Maitlis asked if he regretted having a relationship with Epstein, Andrew paused and couldn’t give a straight answer.
Virginia Roberts claims to have spent time with Andrew on March 10, 2001, alleging they headed to Tramps Nightclub in London before having sex with him when she was only 17.
“There are a number of things that are wrong with that story, one of which is that I don’t know where the bar is in Tramps. I don’t drink, I don’t think I’ve ever bought a drink in Tramps whenever I was there,” Andrew said.
He added that he was spending the evening with his daughters, Princess Beatrice and Eugenie.
“I was with the children and I’d taken Beatrice to a Pizza Express in Woking for a party at I suppose sort of 4 or 5 in the afternoon,” he said. “And then because the Duchess [Sarah Ferguson] was away, we have a simple rule in the family that when one is away the other one is there. I was on terminal leave at the time from the Royal Navy so therefore I was at home.”
Prince Andrew offered more evidence for his contention that Roberts fabricated her allegations, which included her statement that he was “sweating profusely,” claiming that the stress he experienced during the Falkland Wars left him physically unable to sweat at that time.
“There’s a slight problem with the sweating because I have a peculiar medical condition which is that I don’t sweat or I didn’t sweat at the time,” he noted.
Andrew also stated that he had no recollection of ever having sex with Roberts. “If you are a man you have to take some sort of positive action to have sex with someone that you have to remember, and I don’t remember anything,” he added.
Roberts’ legal team has said, “You could not spend time around Epstein and not know what was going on,” with reports of numerous underage girls in Epstein’s homes. However, Andrew felt that his royal upbringing left him oblivious to what may have been obvious to a non-royal.
“I live in an institution at Buckingham Palace which has members of staff walking around all the time and I don’t wish to appear grand but there were a lot of people who were walking around Jeffrey Epstein’s house. As far as I was aware, they were staff, they were people that were working for him, doing things.”
When asked further if he saw underage girls at Epstein’s house, he said, “You would notice if there were hundreds of underage girls in Jeffrey’s house, wasn’t there, not when I was there. Now he may have changed his behaviour patterns in order for that not to be obvious to me. You’re asking me to speculate on things that I just don’t know about.”
Maitlis inquired, “If Virginia Roberts is watching, what is your message to her?” Prince Andrew responded, “I have no message.”
The possibility that Andrew would be called to testify under oath came up, but once again the prince refused to give a straight answer.
“I would have to take all the legal advice, but if push came to shove and legal advice said I should then I would have to,” he said.
“It has been as a constant sore in the family, we all knew him,” said Andrew of Epstein, describing how the scandal has impacted his family, who all wonder “what on earth happened.”
He also addressed the impact his association with Epstein has had on his mother. “I don’t believe it has been damaging to the Queen at all, but it has to me.”
Commenting on the mountain of allegations aimed at Epstein — who dubbed his private jet the Lolita Express, and whose private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands has been nicknamed “Pedophile Island” by locals — Andrew simply described Epstein’s behaviour as “unbecoming.”
“He was a sex offender,” rebutted the incredulous interviewer.
An aide for Prince Andrew told the Daily Mail, “It was certainly the hardest thing he has ever done. For any of us to talk about this stuff no matter who you are, it would be difficult. It takes a huge amount of courage.”
Twitter reaction was not positive.