Lisa Wilkinson: The Biggest Mistake Prince Andrew Made During His Epstein Interview
In the history of PR catastrophes, this one will forever more be known as “doing an Andrew”.
So how on earth did Prince Andrew -- who for many months managed to avoid close scrutiny over his friendship with convicted sex offender and accused sex trafficker, the late Jeffrey Epstein, and the forced-sex allegations by Virginia Roberts currently against him -- get it all so horribly wrong?
From the outset, the Prince’s explanations for just about everything, including why he was even doing this extraordinary sit-down interview, were bizarre. This, he said, was an interview he’d been trying to get up with the BBC for six months about the work he was doing -- damn those competing schedules -- and he was delighted he could now sit down and do exactly that.
But talk of his work, and his delight didn’t last long.
From a staggeringly date-accurate account of a visit to Pizza Express in Woking (“an unusual thing for me to do”), to accusations that the photo of him with then-17-year-old Virginia Roberts was fake (basically, he said, because that photo was upstairs in Epstein’s partner Ghislaine Maxwell’s house, and the Prince protested he’d never been up there... which does beg the question, if he’d never been up there, how would he know what it looks like?... but let’s move on) to intimate revelations about his inability to sweat back then.
It’s okay though, he can sweat now. And in this interview, he clearly was.
Then there was all that lack of recollection on so many things, but particularly the Prince’s own memory of allegedly having sex with an underage Virginia Roberts: “Without putting too fine a point on it, if you’re a man it is a positive act to have sex with somebody. You have to take some sort of positive action. And so therefore if you try to forget, it’s very difficult to try and forget a positive action, and I do not remember anything.”
Wow. And if I’m following this right, he definitely did put a fine point on it and he therefore must remember every single time he ever got... Okay, okay, like I said, let’s move on.
As to the reason he went walking in New York’s Central Park with Epstein and had a four-day stint at his Manhattan mansion even when the billionaire financier was a convicted child sex offender, well, that was to tell him the friendship was over.
Why a simple “you’re dropped” conversation couldn’t be conducted over the phone in a loud and angry voice from the other side of the world, rather than during a four-day house visit, was not made absolutely clear, but according to Prince Andrew, this was an example of him showing “leadership” and being "honourable”.
As to why he ended the friendship, Prince Andrew said it was simply about the optics of the damn thing. “It was inappropriate for us to be seen together.” Publicly, one just couldn’t be SEEN to be having a friendship with him -- not, it seems, because he found Epstein’s behaviour as a child sex offender wholly repugnant, and as the father of two daughters he wanted to wallop him for fiddling with young girls.
Asked whether he regretted his whole friendship with Epstein, the answer was, gobsmackingly, no.
The reason? Because Epstein had been very useful to him, what with all those business contacts, introductions and things he got to learn. Exactly what those things were, was never really expanded upon. But it probably didn’t need to be.
Then there was the wholly indifferent language the eighth in line to the throne used. “A constant sore”, ”a constant... gnaw”, “a constant drip... in the background”, ”a distraction”, were just some of the words he used to describe the Epstein scandal.
Prince Andrew’s biggest mistake, though, of all the mistakes he made in this utterly appalling train wreck of an interview, came right at the end. Was there anything, the BBC’s Emily Maitlis asked him, that he felt he wanted to add, that he had possibly left unsaid?
This, right here, was the moment. After almost 45 minutes of disastrous grilling, of unmitigated obfuscation, THIS was the moment when the Prince had an opportunity to go some way towards making this whole sorry exercise worthwhile.
“No,” Prince Andrew said. “I think you’ve probably dragged out most of what is required.”
What is REQUIRED? What was required right then and there, was absolutely simple: contrition from the Prince, abhorrence at what had occurred and empathy for Epstein’s victims.
Where was the royal’s condemnation of Epstein? Astonishingly, at no point in the entire interview did the Prince find a single moment to condemn child sex trafficking around the world, to indicate his disgust at the secret life of his former friend, or express any empathy, solidarity or remorse for the young female victims -- some of them children -- that Jeffrey Epstein so wilfully exploited, abused and forever damaged.
How COULD he possibly get it so wrong? Arrogant, naive, an embarrassing example of what happens when a life of constant unadulterated privilege bursts from the protected blue blood bubble of the royal family and into the stark, unforgiving light of reality.
As we now know, Prince Andrew’s head of PR left his employ two weeks ago over whether or not he should do this very interview.
The truth is, Prince Andrew should be telling all this to a judge, not the BBC. And now, having spoken publicly, he has possibly given up his diplomatic immunity, and he may have no choice but to do exactly that. Whether he likes it or not.