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updated 10/22/2003 7:30:23 AM ET 2003-10-22T11:30:23

It’s all a question of timing: For the second day in a row, a new revelation about Princess Diana dominates the headlines in London, the revival in Diana conspiracy theories conveniently hitting a fever pitch just one week before the release of her former butler’s new book. Robin Leach, a man who has made a career of examining the lives the rich and famous, joined “Countdown” to try to make sense of Paul Burrell’s behavior.

It’s the new news on a death that is six years old. Today’s headlines center on a letter from Prince Philip to his daughter-in-law. An excerpt printed in the London-based tabloid “The Daily Mirror” reads: “Can you honestly look into your heart and say that Charles’s relationship with Camilla “had nothing to do with your behavior towards him in your marriage?”

In addition to the criticism, the prince appears to compliment Diana, telling her he never dreamed his son would leave her for the longtime companion, Ms. Bowles.

But at least one man appears to be taking the new revelations seriously. Tuesday, the father of the man killed alongside Diana demanded a full public inquiry into the crash. Mohamed Al Fayed says the letter published yesterday by that same British tabloid”confirms the suspicion I have so often voiced.”

But the prime minister, Tony Blair, apparently does not share those suspicions. And he has rejected Mr. Al Fayed’s request, calling the French inquiry into the crash “exhaustive.”

How you define suspicion in this case brings us back to the question of timing, which brings us back to that butler. Why is he releasing these letters now?

Robin Leach, a man who has made a career of examining the lives the rich and famous, joined “Countdown” to try to make sense of Paul Burrell’s behavior.

ROBIN LEACH, HOST, “LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH AND FAMOUS”: Whether we can figure out the motives of a butler is another story.

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: But, to your experience-and you have a lot of them-what are the “butlerian” ethics here?

LEACH: Obviously, there was probably a confidentiality agreement that was signed, the same that is signed by everybody from Madonna to Oprah Winfrey, that butlers, maids, servants, just do not talk.

But they always appear to talk after somebody has passed on and they’re no longer in their employ. So I don’t think that Paul Burrell has broken any ethics of his profession in the release of this. The one question I really have is, why didn’t he release it sooner? Because he has waited until the publication of his book. And, obviously, this will generate extraordinary worldwide publicity.

If it was true that there was a letter that was written by Princess Diana fearing for her life, I think that he should have brought that forward in the hours, let alone the days after her tragic death in Paris.

OLBERMANN: One could even ask that perhaps he might have done something about it in the months between the time she supposedly wrote the letter and the time the accident actually occurred, but now we’re sort of ranging a little bit outside of our field.

Let me ask you, though, regarding this idea of confidentiality as long as they’re alive. Do the proverbial rich and famous know about this, that, posthumously, that confidentiality tends to expire when they do?

LEACH: I don’t think that the language in those confidentiality documents says, on death, you can go talk to your heart’s content, because I don’t think that even dead people like to have their secret laundry aired. But it seems to sort of go with today’s territory of bearing all.

OLBERMANN: As we reflect on this, is it why perhaps that, in many ancient civilizations, when, again, the rich and famous died, they killed the servants immediately and buried them, too?

LEACH: Yes.

And it goes similarly to the British royal family of years gone by, when either the king and the queen said, “off with their head.” Secrets within royal families are supposed to remain secret. And that’s why there is such a hullabaloo over this revelation.

OLBERMANN: What is it all going to do to the butler industry? I would suspect that people might be a little reluctant to get people up close to them if they are going to behave the way this man has.

LEACH: You see, Keith, I don’t really think that he has done anything wrong here.

I think the timing is off base and I think the timing is suspect. But, in the end, book publishers who pay millions of dollars and newspapers who pay millions of dollars for serialization rights sort of control when highlights of a book are about to be released. And I think that this is what this all boils down to. Once again, it’s big money dictating morals.

OLBERMANN: We’ve never seen that happen before.

LEACH: No, never in our world.

OLBERMANN: Never. Never. And many thanks for joining us, sir.

LEACH: Thank you.


This was the no. 1 story on ‘Countdown with Keith Olbermann,’ Oct. 21, Tuesday. Keith Olbermann hosts ‘Countdown,’ weeknights, 8 p.m. ET.

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