Prince Andrew steps away from public duties over Epstein ties

The British royal said it has become clear over the past few days that circumstances around his past ties to Jeffrey Epstein have "become a major disruption to my family’s work."

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By Minyvonne Burke

Britain's Prince Andrew announced Wednesday that he is stepping away from public duties because of the controversy surrounding his past friendship with accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.

The Duke of York's announcement comes days after he discussed his relationship with the late, disgraced financier in a BBC Newsnight interview that ended up only heightening public attention to the matter.

"It has become clear to me over the last few days that the circumstances relating to my former association with Jeffrey Epstein has become a major disruption to my family’s work and the valuable work going on in the many organizations and charities that I am proud to support," the statement said.

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"Therefore, I have asked Her Majesty if I may step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, and she has given her permission," he continued.

He added, "I continue to unequivocally regret my ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstein. His suicide has left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims, and I deeply sympathize with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure. I can only hope that, in time, they will be able to rebuild their lives. Of course, I am willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required."

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The interview has since dominated headlines in the United Kingdom, with many saying it did not help the prince to quiet questions surrounding his ties to Epstein.

Former Buckingham Palace press officer Dickie Arbiter described Andrew’s interview as a truck crash. NBC News royal contributor Camilla Tominey said, “People are scratching their heads in the U.K. as to how he has made a bad situation even worse.”

Epstein, 66, died by suicide in August in his cell at a Manhattan federal prison. He faced up to 45 years in prison on allegations that he sexually abused dozens of girls as young as 14 and young women at his homes in New York and Florida from 2002 to 2005. He had pleaded not guilty.

In the BBC interview Saturday night, Andrew denied allegations he had sex with a teenager who claims she was trafficked by Epstein.

He specifically addressed a photo of himself taken in 2001 with Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who claims she had sex with the prince when she was a teen and trafficked by Epstein.

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

The Duke of York said he had “no recollection” of ever meeting Giuffre and “absolutely no memory” of posing for a picture with her, in which an Epstein associate, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, was in the background.

Giuffre released the image in relation to a 2015 defamation lawsuit she filed against Maxwell. The suit was settled out of court in 2017.

Documents related to the suit that were released in August represent only a portion of the case file and offer limited context in many places. Giuffre's allegations against Andrew were struck from the court records by a judge in April 2015. However, the judge did not rule on the veracity of the claims.

Andrew, who has not been charged with any crimes or named in any civil suits linked to Epstein, also spoke to the BBC more broadly about his relationship with the financier.

He said the two became friends while the prince was transitioning out of the British Navy and trying to establish himself in international business. He had previously said that he had stayed at a number of Epstein’s homes, but saw him infrequently.

Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II, told the BBC, "I mean you have to understand that his house, I described it more as almost as a railway station if you know what I mean in the sense that there were people coming in and out of that house all the time.”