Whatever spin Prince Andrew would like to put on his interview about Jeffrey Epstein at the weekend – reportedly telling the Queen that it was a "great success" – the common consensus was that the hour-long grilling was a "car crash".
After months of facing questions about his relationship to Epstein, who died in prison earlier this year having been indicted on sex trafficking charges, Prince Andrew did little to enhance his public image answering questions from the BBC's Emily Maitlis. He has repeatedly denied accusations he slept with one of Epstein's accusers Virginia Roberts Giuffre while she was underage. Those categorical denials got another airing during the interview.
Details of the prince's answers during the Maitlis interview, including the fact that he had visited a Pizza Express in Woking, at the time of one of the allegations, sparked derision online. But beyond that, the major thing picked up on was the apparent lack of sympathy expressed by Prince Andrew over the alleged ordeals faced by those accusing Epstein.
The prince may not have meant to omit an expression of his sorrow towards the victims, but such behaviour did little to assuage the view of critics that Andrew is a powerful man who does not owe explanations to those around him. Having spent years batting away questions over his conduct when visiting Epstein or the American's then-girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, with blanket denials that there was any wrongdoing – opening up in this way seems ill-advised.
Clearly wanting to answer the allegations once and for all, Andrew's interview has instead opened himself up to more scrutiny. The only way to end this is to put himself forward and to answer questions from the FBI, who are still investigating the Epstein case. Andrew has faced repeated calls from those representing the alleged victims of Epstein to present himself to US authorities, but the calls to do so have only grown louder in the days following the BBC interview.
On Monday alone, Spencer Kuvin, a lawyer for several of the unnamed alleged victims, said "royalty has failed them" as he called on the prince to apologise for his friendship with Epstein, who was a convicted sex offender. Prince Andrew told the BBC he never suspected Epstein of criminal behaviour when he stayed with him.
Kuvin told the Today programme: "It was depressing that he [Prince Andrew] really did not acknowledge the breadth of his friendship with this despicable man and apologise.
"The mere fact that he was friends with a convicted sex offender and chose to continue his relationship with him – it just shows a lack of acknowledgement of the breadth of what this man [Epstein] did to these girls."
Lisa Bloom – a lawyer who represents a number of other Epstein accusers told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme: "I think he's made things worse for himself in this interview and I think it's more likely the authorities are going to want to speak to him now – and they should want to." Other lawyers representing alleged victims have also called for the prince to talk to the FBI.
Andrew will likely have no legal immunity even taking into account his royal status, according to legal experts. And the prince said on Saturday that he would testify under oath if that was the legal advice he was given. Some may have hoped for a stronger statement, with the prince saying he would cooperate fully straight away. It would be the best course of action given the pressure will surely only mount.
Some UK politicians are already clear this is what is needed. Barry Gardiner, the shadow trade secretary, said testifying under oath would be the best option for the prince.
“I believe that if this interview was intended to be open and transparent then it should be focused on the victims", Gardiner said. "it should be focused on justice for those victims of Jeffrey Epstein and anything that Prince Andrew can do in order to further that by saying what he knows of the time he spent with his former friend can only be the right thing to do.”
This is a mess that Prince Andrew will have to find a clear way out of eventually and any more PR errors will only increase the attention on him. He has been clear he has nothing to hide so the prince should take the free legal advice being handed to him over the airwaves. Answering the questions of the FBI is the least Epstein's alleged victims deserve.
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