Newsnight interviewer says she did not intend to ‘bring down the Duke of York’

Emily Maitlis asked Prince Andrew about his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein in an interview for Newsnight. Picture: PA
Emily Maitlis asked Prince Andrew about his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein in an interview for Newsnight. Picture: PA
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Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis has said she did not expect her interview with the Duke of York to have the repercussions it had.

The journalist interviewed the duke at Buckingham Palace about the Jeffrey Epstein sex scandal last month.

I didn’t see it coming. It wasn’t an attempt to bring down the royals, just a chance to understand the story

EMILY MAITLIS

Prince Andrew’s attempt to set the record straight about his relationship with the convicted sex offender – and counter allegations he slept with one of Epstein’s groomed teenagers – was widely condemned for its unsympathetic tone and lack of remorse about the friendship.

Four days after the BBC Two Newsnight interview with Maitlis last month and following a public backlash, Buckingham Palace announced that the duke was “stepping back from public duties for the foreseeable future”.

Maitlis told Radio Times magazine: “I didn’t see it coming.

“It wasn’t an attempt to bring down the royals, just a chance to understand the story.”

She added: “I didn’t like people saying, ‘Oh, it’s a car crash interview’, because I thought, ‘That’s not enticing, that’s not encouraging’.

“I don’t want people thinking that’s what happens at Newsnight.”

The newsreader said that after the interview the impression she got from the prince “was definitely that he had been happy with it”.

She said it was not up to her to decide whether he was being truthful in the interview because “it’s not my job”.

“I’m not a judge, I’m not a barrister, this isn’t a court of law,” said the presenter.

She also praised the duke, 59, for taking all the questions head-on.

“I admire him for his candour and his engagement with the questions in an age of so much deviation and circumnavigation, and quite often a failure to put yourself up for scrutiny,” she said.

Last week Maitlis revealed that she knew that the interview had spelled disaster for the duke when he revealed that he did not regret his friendship with Epstein.

When she asked him if he regretted his whole friendship with Epstein he replied: “Still not”, before going on to say that knowing Epstein had given him opportunities which were “actually very useful”.

Maitlis also said that the duke had assumed the interview had gone so well that he talked of arranging another one to discuss his charity work with Pitch at the Palace his Dragons’ Den-style entrepreneur scheme.

The duke was missing from the Royal Family’s annual Christmas Day attendance at the Church of St Mary Magdalene in Sandringham, Norfolk.

The 11am service is regarded as an official engagement with attendance approved by the Queen and attracts hundreds of spectators.

However, he did attend the 9am private service earlier in the morning with the Queen and other members of the Royal Family, and was seen walking alongside Price Charles.

Following the interview with Maitlis, the duke has withdrawn or been dropped as patron from more than 230 charities, including English National Ballet and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, following the negative publicity after the interview.

He was also ditched as chancellor of the University of Huddersfield after students said he was unfit for the role due to his “association with a known paedophile”.