The Current

Prince Andrew's interview about Epstein showed a 'cringe-inducing' lack of empathy, says royal commentator

While the Prince Andrew intended to clarify his personal ties with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in an interview with the BBC, many have said that he displayed arrogance and a lack of empathy. Royal commentators Angela Levin and Dickie Arbiter comment on the now-infamous interview.

BBC interview with Prince Andrew was meant to clear the air; it was instead seen as a car crash

Prince Andrew is under increasing pressure after an interview with the BBC's Emily Maitlis over the weekend. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

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Update Nov. 20, 2019: Prince Andrew said he has asked to step down from public duties for the foreseeable future on Wednesday, following the scandal about his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein.

Prince Andrew's recent BBC interview about his personal ties to Jeffrey Epstein was supposed to clear the air. It has since been called a public relations disaster. 

Journalist and royal biographer Angela Levin described it as "cringe-making" viewing.

"At some points I kept putting my hand over my eyes thinking: 'I cannot believe that he is saying this,'" she told The Current's interim host Laura Lynch.

"The arrogance, the lack of understanding. It was just too awful."

Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II, was asked by BBC's Emily Maitlis about allegations he had sex with a minor — Virginia Roberts, now Virginia Guiffre — in 2001 when she was 17.

Guiffre claims that she was trafficked by Epstein.

The former financier killed himself in prison last summer while awaiting trial on federal sex-trafficking charges, which he had denied. 

Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced former financier, died in custody in August 2019 after having been convicted of numerous sexual offences. (New York State Sex Offender Registry/The Associated Press)

Andrew denied the allegations, saying he has no recollection of ever meeting Guiffre.

The prince is being criticized for failing to once mention Epstein's victims, as well as not showing remorse for his friendship with Epstein.

"Do I regret the fact that he has quite obviously conducted himself in a manner unbecoming? Yes," Andrew said.

"It was not something that was becoming of a member of the royal family, and we try and uphold the highest standards and practice … I let the side down."

A lack of empathy

The interview has caused a storm of condemnation internationally, with many commentators criticizing the Prince's apparent nonchalance for victims of sexual violence. 

Royal commentator and former palace spokesperson Dickie Arbiter agreed with Levin's assessment. "It was excruciatingly awful and I wondered why he was doing it," he said.

"Who would put him up to do it? Who had advised him to do it? ... It should never have happened."

Mandu Reid, leader of the U.K. Women's Equality Party, said the interview is emblematic of a society-wide disregard for victims of sexual assault. 

"It demonstrates that we're really at base camp when it comes to trying to tackle the problem of sexual abuse, sexual assault, rape, violence against women and girls," she said.

"His statement that he doesn't regret his friendship with a man who perpetrated these horrendous crimes is a really important, I think, exposé of how much work there is to be done."

Arrogance and entitlement 

Levin suggested that Andrew's upbringing may offer some clues to explain his behaviour during the interview.

"He was very spoiled as a child — his mother's favourite child," she said. "He's grown up with an attitude that ... he's always right and he's fine and he doesn't have to listen to anyone at all."

Andrew instead spent more time "talking about himself as being too honourable and very endearing," rather than addressing the the severity of the claims made against him, Levin explained.

Prince Philip gives Princess Anne a few words of advice while Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles and Prince Andrew listen intently prior to her starting in the cross-country three day equestrian event at Bromont, Quebec July 24, 1976. (Chuck Mitchell/The Canadian Press)

"He is arrogant. He does his own thing. ... He wants to be upfront," added Arbiter.

However, he was reluctant to say whether Andrew's interview was symptomatic of a problem inherent in royalty.

"What we must be very careful not to do is to tar the royal family just because there's one bad egg," Arbiter said.

Prince Harry's wife Meghan Markle has been under increasing media scrutiny since their marriage. (Matt Dunham/The Associated Press)

Ingrained privilege

At the same time, some have argued that the ingrained privilege of being a member of the royal family led to his controversial comments.

Reid claims that the scrutiny of Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, since she married Prince Harry has exposed these entrenched establishment biases.

"I think Meghan Markle's presence on the scene exposes some of the divisions that are so prevalent in society," said Reid.

"[It] exposes some of the misogyny and racism that British people like to ... politely pretend isn't a mainstay of how our society works."

Written by Oliver Thompson. Produced by Max Paris and Ines Colabrese.