Britain's Prince Andrew Faces More Criticism After Interview On Epstein Allegations

Nov 18, 2019
Originally published on November 18, 2019 4:17 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Britain's Prince Andrew is under scrutiny over his association with the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. The prince has been dogged for years by allegations that Epstein forced a teenage girl to have sex with the royal in 2001. In an interview with the BBC on Saturday, Prince Andrew denied those claims. It's an unusual move for a royal - sitting down for an interview in a time of crisis - and many Britons are skeptical of the prince's explanations. They're even ridiculing him online.

For more, we turn to NPR's Frank Langfitt in London. Hi, Frank.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Begin by telling us about that BBC interview. How did it unfold?

LANGFITT: Well, the idea behind the interview, Ari, was to put these accusations to rest. And it's done the opposite. It's only raised more questions. Now lawyers for some of Epstein's alleged victims in the United States say the prince should talk to the FBI about what he knows. And there's - were even calls again - this has happened before - for the prince to step down as chancellor of a university up in the north of England, which that school has rejected.

But the bottom line, Ari, is instead of burying these accusations, the prince has only seemed to fire up more interest in them.

SHAPIRO: What specifically was it that he said that riled people up so much?

LANGFITT: There were a number of things, but I'll just give you one example. What he said is he couldn't remember ever meeting his accuser. Her name was, at the time, Virginia Roberts. She was 17. But the prince can't explain this picture of him with his arm around her, apparently in London in 2001.

Now, the BBC's Emily Maitlis, she asked the prince on Saturday night on TV where he was the night Roberts says she was forced to have sex with him. And this was the prince's alibi.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRINCE ANDREW: I was at home. I was with the children. I'd taken Beatrice to a Pizza Express in Woking for a party at, I suppose, sort of 4:00 or 5:00 in the afternoon.

EMILY MAITLIS: Why would you remember that so specifically? Why would you remember a Pizza Express birthday and being at home?

PRINCE ANDREW: Because going to Pizza Express in Woking is an unusual thing for me to do - a very unusual thing for me to do.

SHAPIRO: And, he says, something that he would remember even if he does not remember having met this 17-year-old.

Frank, for listeners who don't know London, explain why going to a Pizza Express in Woking would be something the prince would remember.

LANGFITT: Well, this is something that actually resonated with lots of people in the United Kingdom. Pizza Express is a very well-known sort of mid-range pizza brand. And a dad taking his daughter to a Pizza Express in Woking - it's a nondescript London commuter town - is sort of the most middle-class thing to do. And what Prince Andrew seems to be saying is, you know, remember; I'm a royal. I don't do these things. That's why I would remember this.

But a much bigger problem for him, I think, is that he remembers this Pizza Express but he doesn't remember being photographed with an American teenager in a private home.

SHAPIRO: And while this is all blowing up, something else came out. Tell us about the other problem...

LANGFITT: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: ...The prince is now facing unrelated to Epstein.

LANGFITT: This just happened this afternoon, Ari. A former adviser to the prime minister David Cameron - his name is Rohan Silva - he wrote about an alleged incident in London's Evening Standard. And what Silva said is, after he saw this interview on the TV, it reminded him of the incident.

Now, he says he met with the prince in Buckingham Palace a number of years back. And the prince was serving, I think, as a trade envoy at the time. And Silva said he asked him, like - how can we improve the Department of International Trade? And he said the prince referred to the department as, quote, "the N-word in the woodpile" - but he used the real word.

Now this, of course, is a racial slur referring to something - a hidden problem. This goes back, I think, to the days, certainly, I think, of slavery in the United States. Silva, his parents are from Sri Lanka. He says he regrets not confronting the prince at the time. Buckingham Palace is denying this claim, say that he - the prince never used this language in the meeting.

SHAPIRO: You know, if this were an elected public official, we would be talking about whether and when he would resign. Royals don't resign. So what impact is this having on British perception of the royal family?

LANGFITT: It doesn't help the image, certainly. I mean, the image that you got on the television was a royal who, to some, seemed arrogant and out of touch. And that's the thing that the royal family needs to fight against because there are people here who don't believe in the monarchy and would like them - there are some people who would like it all to end.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Frank Langfitt in London. Thank you.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.