Inside Prince Andrew’s disastrous Newsnight interview as producer speaks out

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Prince Andrew ‘wanted to vindicate himself’ says McAlister

The Duke of York sat down with Emily Maitlis in November 2019 to discuss his friendship with billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, sparking a backlash that led to him stepping back from royal duties days later. Sam McAlister, who secured the scoop for the BBC, said it was an “astonishing experience” watching the disastrous interview as it was filmed from Buckingham Palace.

Ms McAlister told Express.co.uk: “I mean even now we’re talking about it and I was physically there, and I went through all of that, and it’s almost three years ago, I still can’t really believe it happened. I was 15 feet behind his chair.

“Hearing the answers that he gave, each one worse than the last, was really an extraordinary experience that it’s still hard to believe actually happened.

“It was an astonishing experience to be sitting there listening to all of that on camera.”

The producer said the Duke’s failure to give a “fulsome apology” surprised her the most from the interview.

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Prince Andrew sat down with Emily Maitlis in November 2019 (Image: BBC)

She said: “I think it was his inability over a period of you know 45 minutes to give a proper fulsome apology.

“Particularly given we get to the end of the interview and Emily says, ‘is there anything else you want to say Your Royal Highness?’

“Hint, hint, give a fulsome apology. And still he doesn’t manage it.

“So if I were rehearsing with him, and I do help people with interviews, the first and only answer that actually really matters in this entire interview is a proper explanation of his actions with an apology. And it just never came.”

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The Duke of York discussed his friendship with billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein (Image: BBC)

Ms McAlister spent months trying to land the interview before a final meeting was held at the Palace with Andrew, his private secretary Amanda Thirsk and eldest daughter Princess Beatrice.

She said at this point the Duke mentioned his Pizza Express alibi and his sensational claim that a medical condition meant he could not sweat.

Ms McAlister added: “But I never really thought it would make it on camera. So when he actually said all of that again, on camera, it was really almost more shocking than it had been when I heard it the first time.”

The producer said she believes Andrew agreed to the chat because “no one thinks they’re going to do a bad interview”.

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Sam McAlister pictured with presenter Emily Maitlis (Image: GETTY)

She said: “I think the second reason is that’s magnified a thousand times over if you are somebody who has lived the kind of life Prince Andrew has lived where you don’t have the normal failings and challenges and demotions and rejections that the rest of us have day in, day out.

“So you may have a misplaced understanding of your own capabilities on top of that.

“And the third reason is I think he wanted to do something, otherwise he wouldn’t have been there, and I was the right woman in the right place at the right time.

“Obviously he was persuaded by the arguments I made and later my colleagues that we were the right place to do that interview.”

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The interview led to Andrew stepping back from royal duties (Image: GETTY)

Ms McAlister said the Queen’s second son did not appear nervous as they chatted before the interview.

She said: “He seemed in very good spirits. He was extremely friendly. He was very nice to me in that context given that it was obviously going to be an adversarial situation.

“Just passing the time and niceties but he certainly didn’t appear nervous.”

And after the interview, the producer said the Duke “thought at least to all intents and purposes that he’d done a really good job”.

Ms McAliser, who is a trained barrister, added that she could “never” have predicted the impact of the bombshell interview.

She said: “Not in my wildest imagination was the start of that negotiation, the start of that process, going to end with him stepping back from royal life. It was an extraordinary thing to see.”

During the interview, Andrew insisted he had “no recollection” of ever meeting Virginia Giuffre and denied that he slept with her when she was 17.

He also said he did not regret his friendship with Epstein because of “the opportunities I was given to learn” from him about business.

But the Duke was criticised for showing a lack of sympathy towards the disgraced financier’s victims.

Scoops: Behind The Scenes Of The BBC’s Most Shocking Interviews by Sam McAlister is published by Oneworld on July 14.



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