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Queen was 'on board' with Prince Andrew interview, BBC reporter says

Royal's comments on Epstein cause controversy

(CNN) - Prince Andrew's TV interview about his relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein has been widely described as a car crash, sparking near-universal condemnation from the UK's national papers and commentators. And it seems the Queen approved it.

In a first-person piece published in The Times of London on Monday, journalist Emily Maitlis detailed the negotiation and planning leading up to the BBC Newsnight interview, which had been pitched to Andrew's team a year before it aired.

Initially, Maitlis wrote, the Duke's team did not want to discuss Epstein in any potential interview. But as controversy about Epstein -- who died by suicide in August while awaiting trial on federal charges that he sexually abused underage girls and ran a sex trafficking ring -- intensified, Andrew's team changed their minds, she said.

"The Palace knew they had a problem. They had sent out statements vigorously denying the claims. But those perhaps lacked the conviction of a human voice behind them. And so we go to meet his team. They feel that a Newsnight interview is the only way to clear the air. To put across his side of the story," Maitlis wrote.

"We have finished laying out our pitch. An awkward moment of silence falls. And the duke tells us he must 'seek approval from higher up'. It dawns on us then that he means the Queen herself. At 8am the next day we have a message telling us to call his office. The Queen, it seems, is on board," the Newsnight presenter wrote.

'The Queen was aware of the interview,' a Buckingham Palace spokesperson told CNN.

One of Epstein's accusers, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, has alleged that she was forced into sexual encounters with the prince while underage. In a 2015 federal court filing, Giuffre alleged Epstein forced her to perform sex acts with several prominent men, including Andrew in 2001. All of them have denied the allegations.

The interview, recorded Thursday, was the first time Andrew had spoken about the accusations publicly, though he has repeatedly denied them through statements issued by Buckingham Palace.

On camera, in Buckingham Palace, the Queen's second son said he had taken his elder daughter to a party at a pizza restaurant on the night it is claimed he had sex with Roberts Giuffre.

For many years, the prince claimed in the interview, he could not sweat, countering the allegations made by Roberts Giuffre that he was "sweating profusely" before they had sex when she was 17.

The Duke of York told Maitlis he had seen nothing that struck him as suspicious when he was around Epstein.

Asked by Maitlis whether he felt any "guilt, regret or shame" about his behavior or friendship with Epstein, the prince said only that it was "the wrong decision to go and see him in 2010."

There was "no indication" Epstein was doing anything wrong, Prince Andrew said in the interview.


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