Britain’s Prince Andrew sparks backlash after ‘disastrous’ TV interview

(file photo: Reuters)
Updated 17 November 2019

Britain’s Prince Andrew sparks backlash after ‘disastrous’ TV interview

  • The prince was lambasted from all quarters for his lack of judgment and empathy with the victims
  • The unprecedented interview was the first time Andrew has answered questions about Virginia Robert’s allegations

LONDON: Britain’s Prince Andrew provoked a backlash Sunday following an extraordinary TV interview in which he denied having sex with an alleged victim of the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, as public relations experts branded the hour-long exchange “disastrous.”
Queen Elizabeth II’s second son was lambasted from all quarters for his lack of judgment and empathy with the victims, his extraordinary defense that he was at a high street pizza restaurant, never sweated and claim that he only stayed at the sex offender’s home because he was ‘too honorable’.
The unprecedented interview was the first time Andrew has answered questions about Virginia Robert’s allegations.
It was a PR gamble intended to clear his name but in attempting to justify his relationship with Epstein, Andrew appeared Sunday to have opened himself up to even greater criticism.
Roberts, now Giuffre, claims she was forced to have sex with the royal on three occasions — in London in 2001 when she was 17, in New York and on Epstein’s private Caribbean island.
PR consultant Mark Borkowski said the exchanges were “like watching a man in quick sand” and that he had “never seen anything so disastrous.”
Meanwhile media lawyer Mark Stephens, who represented James Hewitt after his alleged affair with Princess Diana, called the interview “a catastrophic error.”
“(He) seemed unconcerned by the seriousness of the matter, laughing and smiling at several points during the interview... and expressed no regrets or concern about Epstein’s victims,” added The Guardian.
“Not one single word of remorse,” screamed the front page of the Mail on Sunday following the interview on the BBC’s Newsnight program on Saturday evening.
Andrew, 59, who is eighth in line to the throne, has been dogged for years by critism of his links to Epstein, who was found dead in a New York jail in August.
Giuffre, who alleges that Epstein abused her for years and farmed her out to his wealthy friends, first made her allegations against Prince Andrew, who has repeatedly denied them, in a 2015 US civil court deposition and has repeated them in more recent TV interviews.
“I can absolutely categorically tell you it never happened,” Andrew said referring to her claim that they had sex, adding he had “no recollection” of having met her.
The prince told interviewer Emily Maitlis he was in fact “at home with the children” on the March 2001 night in question, after earlier taking his daughter Princess Beatrice to a pizza restaurant.
He denied they had shared a sweaty dance at a London nightclub on the basis he cannot sweat due to a condition related to having fought in the 1982 Falklands War.
And he said a picture showing him with his arm around Giuffre, with Epstein’s friend Ghislaine Maxwell in the background, was “a photograph of a photograph of a photograph,” hinting that it could have been doctored.
Epstein, a US multi-millionaire, pleaded guilty in 2008 to procuring a girl under the age of 18 for prostitution and served 13 months in a US prison before being released on probation.
A coroner ruled that he committed suicide by hanging while awaiting trial on federal charges he trafficked girls as young as 14 for sex.
Nonetheless Andrew, who had hosted Epstein at Windsor Castle, and remained in contact after he was convicted, expressed little regret for the friendship, telling Maitlis it had “seriously beneficial outcomes” unrelated to the controversies.
Jack Scarola, a lawyer for Giuffre, told The Times on Saturday Andrew should “submit to an interview under oath with the investigating authorities” in the US who continue to probe the Epstein scandal.
Andrew said he would “in the right circumstances” but added he was “bound by what my legal advice is.”
The prince also faced uncomfortable questions over staying with Epstein at his Manhattan townhouse shortly after his release from prison, when he was captured on video waving goodbye to a woman at the front door.
A witness has described seeing Andrew getting a foot massage from a young Russian woman there.
He repeatedly insisted he was “not close” to the disgraced financier and that his home was simply “a convenient place to stay.”
Andrew also claimed he spent several days there to end their friendship face-to-face — in an “honorable” way — but ultimately conceded it was “the wrong thing to do.”
“It was not something that was becoming of a member of the royal family and we try and uphold the highest standards and practices and I let the side down,” he said.


Lebanon’s journalists suffer abuse, threats covering unrest

Updated 07 December 2019

Lebanon’s journalists suffer abuse, threats covering unrest

  • The deteriorating situation for journalists in Lebanon comes despite its decades-old reputation for being an island of free press in the Arab world

BEIRUT: Lebanese journalists are facing threats and wide-ranging harassment in their work — including verbal insults and physical attacks, even death threats — while reporting on nearly 50 days of anti-government protests, despite Lebanon’s reputation as a haven for free speech in a troubled region.
Nationwide demonstrations erupted on Oct. 17 over a plunging economy. They quickly grew into calls for sweeping aside Lebanon’s entire ruling elite. Local media outlets — some of which represent the sectarian interests protesters are looking to overthrow — are now largely seen as pro- or anti-protests, with some journalists feeling pressured to leave their workplaces over disagreements about media coverage.
The deteriorating situation for journalists in Lebanon comes despite its decades-old reputation for being an island of free press in the Arab world. Amid Lebanon’s divided politics, media staff have usually had wide range to freely express their opinions, unlike in other countries in the region where the state stifles the media.
The acts of harassment began early in the protests. MTV television reporter Nawal Berry was attacked in central Beirut in the first days of the demonstrations by supporters of the militant group Hezbollah and its allies. They smashed the camera, robbed the microphone she was holding, spat on her and kicked her in the leg.
“How is it possible that a journalist today goes to report and gets subjected to beating and humiliation? Where are we? Lebanon is the country of freedoms and democracy,” Berry said.
Outlets like MTV are widely seen as backing protesters’ demands that Lebanon’s sectarian political system be completely overturned to end decades of corruption and mismanagement.
Rival TV stations and newspapers portray the unrest — which led to the Cabinet’s resignation over a month ago — as playing into the hands of alleged plots to undermine Hezbollah and its allies. Many of those outlets are run by Hezbollah, President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement and the Amal Movement of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. These media regularly blast protesters for closing roads and using other civil disobedience tactics, describing them as “bandits.”
For Berry, the media environment worsened as the unrest continued. On the night of Nov. 24, while she was covering clashes between protesters and Hezbollah and Amal supporters on a central road in Beirut, supporters of the Shiite groups chased her into a building. She hid there until police came and escorted her out.
“I was doing my job and will continue to do so. I have passed through worse periods and was able to overcome them,” said Berry, who added she is taking a short break from working because of what she passed through recently.
Hezbollah supporters also targeted Dima Sadek, who resigned last month as an anchorwoman at LBC TV. She blamed Hezbollah supporters for robbing her smartphone while she was filming protests, and said the harassment was followed by insulting and threatening phone calls to her mother, who suffered a stroke as a result of the stress.
“I have taken a decision (to be part of the protests) and I am following it. I have been waiting for this moment all my life and I have always been against the political, sectarian and corrupt system in Lebanon,” said Sadek, a harsh critic of Hezbollah, adding that she has been subjected to cyberbullying for the past four years.
“I know very well that this will have repercussions on my personal and professional life. I will go to the end no matter what the price is,” Sadek said shortly after taking part in a demonstration in central Beirut.
Protesters have also targeted journalists reporting with what are seen as pro-government outlets. OTV station workers briefly removed their logos from equipment while covering on the demonstrations to avoid verbal and physical abuse. The station is run by supporters of Aoun’s FPM.
“The protest movement has turned our lives upside down,” said OTV journalist Rima Hamdan, who during one of her reports slapped a man on his hand after he pointed his middle finger at her. She said the station’s logo “is our identity even though sometimes we had to remove it for our own safety.”
Television reporters with Hezbollah’s Al-Manar and Amal’s NBN channels were also attacked in a town near Beirut, when they were covering the closure of the highway linking the capital city with southern Lebanon by protesters. In a video, an NBN correspondent is seen being attacked, while troops and policemen stand nearby without intervening.
“This happens a lot in Lebanon because some media organizations are politicized. No one sees media organizations as they are but sees them as representing the political group that owns them,” said Ayman Mhanna, director of the Beirut-based media watchdog group SKeyes.
“The biggest problem regarding these violations is that there is no punishment,” Mhanna said. Authorities usually fail to act even when they identify those behind attacks on journalists, he added.
Coverage of the protests also led to several journalists resigning from one of Lebanon’s most prominent newspapers, Al-Akhbar, which is seen as close to Hezbollah, and the pan-Arab TV station Al-Mayadeen, which aligns closely with the policies of Iran, Syria and Venezuela.
Joy Slim, who quit as culture writer at Al-Akhbar after more than five years, said she did so after being “disappointed” with the daily’s coverage of the demonstrations. She released a video widely circulated on social media that ridiculed those who accuse the protesters of being American agents.
Sami Kleib, a prominent Lebanese journalist with a wide following around the Middle East, resigned from Al-Mayadeen last month. He said the reason behind his move was that he was “closer to the people than the authorities.”
“The Lebanese media is similar to politics in Lebanon where there is division between two axes: One that supports the idea of conspiracy theory, and another that fully backs the protest movement with its advantages and disadvantages,” Kleib said.