Britain’s media attacked Prince Andrew’s effort to rebut claims he had sex with a woman who says she was trafficked as a teenager by Jeffrey Epstein, branding the interview a public relations disaster.
In a rare interview with BBC Newsnight broadcast on Saturday, Andrew categorically denied having sex with the woman, Virginia Roberts Giuffre. But Britain‘s newspapers and social media commentators criticised him for failing to show sympathy for the convicted sex offender’s victims.
During the hour-long conversation, Andrew insisted he had “no recollection” of ever having met his accuser.
The prince also conceded his continued association with Epstein after he was convicted of soliciting prostitution had let the royal family down – but 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 said on the allegations he had sex with Roberts, now 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.”
Andrew said he was “at home with the children” on the March 2001 night Giuffre alleges they had sex, after earlier taking his daughter Princess Beatrice to a pizza restaurant near London.
The interview dominated the front pages of Britain’s newspapers on Sunday, with several headlines across the political spectrum 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”, commented The Guardian.
Image consultant Mark Borkowski said the exchanges were “like watching a man in quicksand” and he had “never seen anything so disastrous”.
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.
A coroner ruled he committed suicide by hanging while awaiting trial on federal charges he trafficked girls as young as 14 for sex.
Epstein 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 effect on his immediate family.
‘Wrong thing to do’
Over the years, Epstein, 66, hobnobbed with politicians, socialites and celebrities, including Donald Trump before he was president, and Bill Clinton.
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”.
Andrew also faced questions over staying with Epstein at his Manhattan townhouse shortly after his release from prison.
He said it was “a convenient place to stay” and 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 … 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.
Jack Scarola, a lawyer for Giuffre, told The Times that Andrew should “submit to an interview under oath with the investigating authorities” who continue to investigate 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”.