The Duke of York’s attempt to defend his reputation following the Jeffrey Epstein sex scandal was branded “disastrous” as he admitted he had no regrets about his friendship with the convicted paedophile.
Andrew’s television interview with BBC’s Newsnight was seen as the royal’s attempt to draw a line under his controversial relationship with the disgraced financier, and to deny publicly claims he had underage sex with Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s victims.
But he stated twice his relationship with Epstein, who died in jail while facing sex trafficking charges, had some “seriously beneficial outcomes” and it gave him the opportunity to meet people and help prepare for a future role as a trade envoy.
Andrew may have opened himself up to further criticism with the admission which is likely to be condemned by Mrs Giuffre, one of 16 women who say they were abused by the convicted paedophile.
The duke denied he slept with Mrs Giuffre on three separate occasions when questioned by Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis, saying one encounter in 2001 did not happen as he had taken his daughter Princess Beatrice to Pizza Express in Woking for a party, and they spent the rest of the day together.
The same alleged sexual liaison, which the American said began with the royal sweating heavily as they danced at London nightclub Tramp, was factually wrong as the duke said he had a medical condition at the time which meant he did not sweat.
The duke said the whole episode had not been damaging to the Queen, only to himself, and that the wider royal family “couldn’t be more supportive”.
Public relations and crisis consultant Mark Borkowski said: “I have never seen anything so disastrous. For any students of PR that is how not to do it.
“It was like watching a man in quick sand and unfortunately, I don’t think anyone would have thrown him a line to get him out.”
Andrew described social media as a “problem” of the 21st century during the interview, and he was mocked relentlessly online with many highlighting his mention of the pizza restaurant.
When asked by Maitlis if he regretted the “whole friendship with Epstein”, the duke replied: “Now, still not and the reason being is that the people that I met and the opportunities that I was given to learn either by him or because of him were actually very useful.”
Earlier in the interview, Andrew had said he was transitioning out of the Royal Navy and wanted to the know more about the world of business as he would become the UK’s special representative for international trade and investment.
Mrs Giuffre has alleged in court documents she “was forced to have sexual relations with this prince when she was a minor” in London and New York.
Later, when aged 18, she alleges they had sex again on a private Caribbean island owned by Epstein where an orgy took place.
Her allegations were struck from US civil court records in 2015 after a judge said they were “immaterial and impertinent”.
Maitlis quizzed the duke about the claims: “Are you saying you don’t believe her, she’s lying?”
The duke replied: “That’s a very difficult thing to answer because I’m not in a position to know what she’s trying to achieve, but I can tell you categorically I don’t remember meeting her at all.
“I do not remember a photograph being taken and I’ve said consistently and frequently that we never had any sort of sexual contact whatever.”