Prince Andrew is facing a transatlantic backlash over his extraordinary defence of his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein after lawyers who represent 10 of the billionaire predator’s victims branded the royal unrepentant and implausible and demanded that he speak to the FBI.
After the royal’s defiant Newsnight interview on Saturday triggered a disbelieving reaction from the public and the media, the prince was under growing pressure from critics in the UK and US on Sunday who demanded an apology for his conduct and said that his defence of his actions was simply not credible.
Gloria Allred, who has worked on numerous high-profile sexual harassment cases and is now representing five of Epstein’s victims, told the Guardian: “The right and honourable action for Prince Andrew to take now is for him to volunteer to be interviewed by the FBI and prosecutors for the southern district of New York [who are continuing to investigate sex-trafficking allegations against Epstein despite his death in prison in August].
“Prince Andrew has decided to enter the court of public opinion with this interview and people can decide whether to believe him or not. The most important part of this is the victims and very little was said about them in this interview. They were almost completely ignored.”
Los Angeles-based lawyer Lisa Bloom, who represents another five victims, told the Guardian that Andrew’s intervention fell far short of ending questions over his relationship with Epstein.
“Prince Andrew’s interview was deeply disappointing,” Bloom – who is Allred’s daughter – told the Guardian. “He is entitled to deny allegations and defend himself. But where is his apology for being so closely associated with one of history’s most prolific paedophiles?”
In the interview, Andrew said he had been in Pizza Express in Woking on the day of his alleged meeting with accuser Virginia Giuffre; claimed a condition linked to the Falklands war that prevented him from sweating undermined her story; and described Epstein’s history of paedophilia as “unbecoming” but refused to express regret for their friendship.
On a day of escalating difficulty for the prince:
• Former royal press officers and PR experts described his appearance as “excruciating” and “arrogant”.
• It emerged that a key PR adviser brought in to help salvage Andrew’s reputation had left after just weeks in the job and only a fortnight before the interview was broadcast after he advised the prince against it.
• The Guardian learned that after filming of the interview concluded, Andrew had been pleased enough with how it had gone that he gave the Newsnight team a tour of Buckingham Palace.
• The students’ union at Huddersfield University, where Andrew is chancellor, unanimously backed a motion demanding that he resign from the post.
• Sources in the prince’s private office insisted that he stood by the interview and believed he had dealt with the issues with “honesty and humility”.
The two lawyers’ interventions echoed posts on the Twitter account of Giuffre (formerly Roberts), who has claimed that Epstein and his “fixer” Ghislaine Maxwell forced her to have sex with Andrew when she was 17 – allegations Andrew has always vehemently denied.
While she has not directly commented on the weekend’s revelations, she retweeted numerous messages that were scathing of Andrew’s claims.
During the interview, the prince repeatedly said he had no recollection of ever meeting Giuffre or having his picture taken with her, despite the existence of an image of them together that has been widely circulated.
Elsewhere, he said he would remember if he had had sex with her, because it is a “positive act” for a man, and denied he had.
Meanwhile, her lawyer, Jack Sarcola, said that talking to the media “didn’t cut it” and that Andrew should give an interview under oath.
Allred said her clients had willingly spoken with investigators but she declined, under attorney-client privilege, to say if any had mentioned Prince Andrew.
She added: “Prince Andrew said he would follow the advice of his lawyers, but if he has nothing to hide, and he has committed no crime, why doesn’t he just make the decision to share what he does know about Mr Epstein, his close associates and employees with the FBI? Why does he need a lawyer to tell him to do that?”
Bloom – who has battled to regain her credibility as a sexual harassment lawyer after she worked with Harvey Weinstein – pointed out that Andrew had said he did not regret his friendship with Epstein “because of the people he met”.
Saying that some answers were “simply not credible”, she added: “The lengthy interview lacked any statement that he joins all decent people in being appalled and revolted by what we now know about Jeffrey Epstein’s predatory behaviour.”
The scathing US verdict on the interview came as the prince faced further criticism in the UK. Former Buckingham Palace press officer Dickie Arbiter told the BBC “any sensible-thinking person in the PR business would have thrown their hands up in horror”.
He said that the interview was “not so much a car crash but an articulated lorry crash”.
Meanwhile, businesses and charities were under growing pressure to review their links to the prince and his pitch@palace initiative for entrepreneurs, which stages events at Buckingham Palace and around the world.
Barclays, KMPG, Standard Chartered and the Stelios Foundation are all listed as partners of Pitch@Palace, which links tech entrepreneurs to people who can help their business.
“Anyone associated with organisations with Andrew’s patronages should at least review their involvement,” said Catherine Mayer, a royal biographer who is also president and co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party (WEP).
“In the case of the MeToo movement, the men who were identified reacted not with any genuine contrition but by seeking to portray themselves as victims themselves. In doing so they always erase the victims.”
In the charity sector, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) took the step on Twitter of repeatedly responding to questions about “dropping” the prince as a patron by pointing out that his role as patron of its Full Stop campaign, which sought to draw attention to child abuse as an issue, ended in 2009.
Members of the students’ union at the University of Huddersfield will on Monday discuss pushing for him to resign as chancellor after there was unanimous support for a motion stating that they “should not be represented by a man with ties to organised child sexual exploitation and assault”.
The university itself issued a statement pointing to the prince’s previous denial and lauding him for taking a keen interest in its work and describing his “enthusiasm for innovation and entrepreneurship” as “a natural fit”.