Prince Andrew's Interview Was An Avoidable Train Wreck

Oh My Goodness, to use the popular OMG phrase in its fullest form. That was a very weird interview with BBC Newsnight, wasn't it?

For a country that very rarely sees its royals doing anything other than waving majestically from a carriage, it was just incredibly odd seeing Prince Andrew being grilled on his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein. 

It soon emerged that this PR advisor had quit over the decision to go ahead with the interview, and yet the fact it happened at Buckingham Palace would suggest it was sanction from the top. 

For me, the departing PR person was correct,, and nearly every paper front page today would agree. If Prince Andrew was hoping that speaking to Newsnight would put an end to speculation over his relationship with Epstein, he was very much mistaken.

The main thing that came across was a complete lack of remorse of empathy for Epstein's alleged victims. Let's not forget he had a conviction for soliciting a minor for prostitution and was accused of multiple other similar crimes which led him to go to prison this year where he apparently committed suicide. 



More to the point, Prince Andrew did not take the chance to distance himself from the disgraced hedge-fund manager, nor condemn him. He did confess that he had "let the side down" by going to see and stay with Epstein in 2010 when he was released from prison, but claimed he only went to break off the friendship.

Prince Andrew had previously claimed in the interview that he had no contact with Epstein after he was charged with the offence in 2006 for which he was later convicted. He is consistently referred to as not being a close friend -- but rather a "plus one" who came to events with his girlfriend who is a long-standing friend of the Prince.

Nevertheless, Prince Andrew decided that breaking off the relationship in 2010 over the phone -- four years after not having seen Epstein -- would be wrong. Instead, he thought he should "show leadership" and go to see Epstein in person to explain that he could no longer be a friend.

The conversation was part of a stay for several days, which included being the guest of honour at a dinner party. Different people will either accept or not accept that version of events.

Other bizarre details have emerged. Prince Andrew claims to have no memory of ever meeting the woman, who was just 17 back in 2001 and is accusing him of wrongdoing after dancing, and sweating profusely, at a well-known posh nightclub in London. He has a couple of ways of shooting down her story -- which are, well, just odd.

First of all, he remembers vividly going to Pizza Express in Woking on the March night concerned. Now, for anyone who knows UK eateries, it is probably one of the last places one would expect to find Prince Andrew escorting his daughter to a meal or party. Secondly, after a rush of adrenalin due to being shot at in the Falklands War, Prince Andrew says he was not able to sweat at the time. He hinted that the unnamed medical condition has since been treated. 

Perhaps the best comment I have heard about the saga was a royal biographer who claims to have spent a lot of time with Prince Andrew. Speaking to Sky News, she referred to the interview as what happens when those living on "Planet Windsor" are exposed to the outside world.

She referenced the word "entitlement" several times in her explanation of why the Prince did not take the opportunity to show remorse or convey any feeling of empathy toward Epstein's alleged victims. 

The result? Well today's headline in The Times sums it up as the Labour Party calls for Prince Andrew to cooperate with the FBI investigation into the Epstein allegations. 

Quite what Prince Andrew was hoping to get out of the weekend's television interview is unclear. If he was hoping that saying he had never met the girl in question because he was at Pizza Express and was unable to sweat at the time would put an end to the saga, he was wrong. He must have been told so by his PR aide who felt strongly enough to resign. 

It is impossible to consider that did not prepare for the interview. Executives at companies are usually grilled in media training for something as banal as the launch of a new flavour of teabags.

So he must have practised and yet still decided to do an interview in which he said he wasn't very friendly with Epstein and yet went to see him for several days after four years of no contact, following his release from prison, to say they could no longer be friends. 

This begs the question: at what stage did it not appear obvious that if the interview had to go ahead, the best route was to admit he was wrong to see Epstein after it was clear that he had solicited a minor for prostitution. What part of him didn't feel it was worthwhile pointing out as a father that he is shocked by what is alleged to have happened to underage girls and he only hopes they can rebuild their lives?

Let's be clear. Prince Andrew does a least deserve some praise for answering his accuser on Newsnight, and there is no suggestion that he is not telling the truth.

However, some contrition and a whole lot of empathy would have done the trick. We got neither, and now there will just be very loud calls for him to testify for the FBI under oath.

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