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Prince Andrew interview on ties to Epstein widely panned

The decision to speak to the BBC was seen as a gamble for the royals who traditionally are tight-lipped and try to maintain a strong grip on their image.

LONDON — If Britain's Prince Andrew hoped his rare TV interview this weekend would draw a line under allegations he had sex with a teenager who claims she was trafficked by financier Jeffrey Epstein, he was very wrong.

The interview broadcast late Saturday by BBC Newsnight has dominated headlines as the country processes the exchange in which the second son of Queen Elizabeth II denied having sex with the woman, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, when she was a teen.

Some of Britain’s newspapers, royal and social media commentators criticized Andrew for defending his friendship with Epstein, failing to convey empathy for the victims of the convicted sex offender and for showing a lack of humility.

“Andrew under fire from the Palace,” read The Daily Telegraph. “Not one single word of remorse,” read The Mail on Sunday. "Apologize to Epstein's victims now, prince told," read The Guardian.

Former Buckingham Palace press officer Dickie Arbiter described the interview as "not so much a car crash but an articulated lorry crash.”

"Lorry" is a British term for truck.

The insistent and polite interview by Emily Maitlis was viewed as a big gamble in a country where royals traditionally stay tight-lipped and try to maintain a strong grip on their public image.

“People are scratching their heads in the U.K. as to how he has made a bad situation even worse,” NBC News royal contributor Camilla Tominey said.

Buckingham Palace did not immediately respond to NBC News' requests for comment on the reaction to the interview.

Among the moments seized upon by British commentators was Andrew’s claim that he went to stay with Epstein in New York for four days in 2010, after Epstein served time for soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution, in order to break off the friendship.

“I admit fully that my judgment was probably colored by my tendency to be too honorable but that's just the way it is,” he said, adding that with the benefit of hindsight it was clear that it was “the wrong thing to do.”

The Sunday Times described the interview as a "TV calamity" and raised questions about whether the queen is losing her grip on "the firm," as the royal family is known.

Virginia Giuffre with Prince Andrew and Ghislaine Maxwell at Prince Andrew's London home.
Virginia Giuffre with Prince Andrew and Ghislaine Maxwell at Prince Andrew's London home in a photo released with court documents.

In an interview with NBC News, Roya Nikkhah, The Sunday Times royal correspondent, said the interview left a lot of questions unanswered.

"I don’t think it will help him. I think it’s only going to fuel more and more damaging speculation around him and the monarchy," she said. "I don’t think you’re going to see individual members of the royal family jumping to Andrew’s defense."

Andrew has also been criticized for his claim that the alleged encounter with Giuffre in 2001 could not have happened on the date reported because he had taken his daughter Princess Beatrice to a party at a chain restaurant, Pizza Express, in the London suburb of Woking that day.

Asked why he would remember that day specifically, he responded “going to Pizza Express in Woking is an unusual thing for me to do.”

"I think, perhaps, eyebrows will be raised as to why he's bringing his daughters into what is a very sordid saga," Tominey said.

Giuffre's attorneys did not respond to multiple requests for comment.