Britain's Prince Andrew says he is stepping back from public duties with the queen's permission.
Andrew said it has become clear to him in recent days that his association with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein has become a “major distraction” to the royal family’s work.
He said Wednesday he regrets his association with Epstein and that he “deeply sympathizes” with his victims.
Prince Andrew recently offered a detailed rebuttal to claims he had sex with a woman who says she was trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein, providing an alibi for one of the alleged encounters and questioning the authenticity of a well-known photograph that shows him posing with the woman.
In a rare interview with BBC Newsnight, Andrew categorically denied having sex with the woman, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, saying, “It didn’t happen.”
He said he has “no recollection” of ever meeting her and told an interviewer there are “a number of things that are wrong” about Giuffre’s account.
Giuffre has said Epstein forced her to have sex with Andrew in 2001 when she was 17. She says Epstein flew her around the world on his private planes to have sex with powerful men, and that she had sexual encounters with Andrew in London and New York and in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“I can absolutely categorically tell you it never happened,” Andrew said.
A request for comment was sent to Giuffre’s representative. Giuffre recently challenged the British royal to speak out, telling reporters in New York, “He knows exactly what he’s done.”
“And the answer is nothing,” Andrew told BBC.
Andrew’s decision to grant the interview was seen in Britain as a high-stakes gamble in a country where the royals don’t normally talk with reporters on subjects beyond their charitable works.