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Prince Andrew’s Widely Criticized Interview About Jeffrey Epstein Wins Big Viewer Numbers for BBC

Prince Andrew’s interview by the BBC about his relationship with the late Jeffrey Epstein drew viewers – and scathing critiques – in droves. Those who tuned into the special edition of BBC’s “Newsnight” program saw Queen Elizabeth II’s second son quizzed at length about his friendship with convicted sex offender Epstein and about allegations that he himself slept with teenager Virginia Giuffre.

The hour-long exclusive interview, which aired at 9 p.m. Saturday on BBC Two, garnered 1.7 million viewers, the pubcaster told Variety. That’s a bigger-than-average audience for a slot that has recently featured panel show “QI.”

While it didn’t set a ratings record for “Newsnight,” the interview with Andrew, Duke of York, drew the highest audience “we have seen for several years” for the program, a BBC spokesman said. It has attracted a further 500,000 requests on the BBC’s iPlayer streaming and catchup service. Outside of the U.K., the full interview can be watched on YouTube, where it has so far garnered more than 450,000 views.

The interview with “Newsnight’s” Emily Maitlis took six months to arrange and dominated TV news and newspaper headlines in the U.K. – and beyond – over the weekend. Most commentators have judged it a huge PR disaster for the prince, who was roundly criticized for not showing any sympathy for Epstein’s victims or adequately explaining why he associated with Epstein after the disgraced financier’s release from prison, spending time with him and staying at his Manhattan home.

The prince, who served a stint as a U.K. trade envoy, said he did not regret his friendship with Epstein, who taught him about trade and business.

Nicknamed “Randy Andy” by the British tabloids in his younger years, the 59-year-old prince denied having sex with Giuffre when she was a teenager, saying that he was at a pizza restaurant with one of his daughters on the day in 2001 that he was alleged to have been with the then-17-year-old Giuffre.

While Andrew is believed to have wanted to put the issue of his association with Epstein to rest, it appears to have had the opposite effect. Gloria Allred, who is representing five of Epstein’s alleged victims, said the prince should offer himself up for interview by the FBI and prosecutors in New York. Asked whether he would do so, the prince said that it would depend on the legal advice he received.

Even sections of the U.K. press usually supportive of the royal family rounded on the prince after the interview in a wave of coruscating editorials, articles and overwhelmingly negative coverage.

Convicted sex offender Epstein died in a New York jail cell in August, apparently from suicide. Prince Andrew would not comment in detail on speculation that Epstein had not in fact taken his own life.

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