The US-based news broadcasting company ABC came under fire on Tuesday after a clip revealed that the network deliberately squashed an interview with Jeffery Epstein's accuser due to threats from the Buckingham Palace.
A video circulated by the right-wing group, Project Veritas, shows host of ABC's "20/20" programme Amy Robach complaining in August about her interview with Virginia Giuffre in 2015 that was never aired after "the Palace found out that we had her whole allegations about Prince Andrew and threatened us a million different ways."
"I tried for three years to get (the interview) on to no avail and now it's coming out and it's like these 'new revelations' and I freaking had all of it," Robach is heard saying while sitting in a Times Square studio with a microphone, according to the Associated Press.
Robach also said she was told "who's Jeffrey Epstein? No one knows who that is. This is a stupid story" by the senior editors. She said the news network feared that airing the interview would kill future chances of interviewing Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Jeffrey Epstein was convicted in Florida state charges in 2008 of soliciting prostitution and of soliciting an underage girl into prostitution. Investigation revealed that he the multimillionaire hedge fund manager who was friends with Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew used to coerce underage girls into sex in his properties.
While he served 18 months in jail, due to a non-prosecution agreement deal, an FBI probe into the victims and powerful personalities who were complicit in Epstein's sex crimes were dropped. In a widely criticised deal, four of his accomplices were granted immunity from all federal criminal charges. He committed suicide in August at a New York jail after facing fresh child sex trafficking charges.
His accuser, Virginia Giuffre, earlier named Roberts, had claimed that she was trafficked by former financier Jeffrey Epstein and his accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell and coerced into performing sex acts with him high profile men including the Duke of York, Prince Andrew in exchange for payments when she was 15.
Knowing the truth
In an address at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Switzerland's Davos in 2015, Andrew publicly denied Giuffre's claims. In August, the prince stated that he used to meet Epstein "infrequently" in 1999 and saw him once or twice each year. He also regretted meeting Epstein after his release from Prison in 2010 and called it "a mistake and an error".
In a televised interview aired on NBC in September, Guiffre described an incident in 2001 in which she was forced into sex with Prince Andrew when she was 17. "He denies that it ever happened, and he's going to keep denying that it even happened — but he knows the truth and I know the truth," Giuffre said. She also said she was abused by Prince Andrew twice later, once in Epstein's New York mansion and another time at his Virgin Islands' estate.
In a 2011 testimony against Epstein's for the child sexual abuse case, she had accused Andrew of "knowing the truth" of sex trafficking underage girls and had stated that he should be made to testify in the case, according to the Guardian.
The Buckingham Palace has called the allegations "false" and "without foundation". "It is emphatically denied that The Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts. Any claim to the contrary is false and without foundation," a Palace spokesperson as quoted as saying to CNN.
ABC had earlier stated that there was "zero truth" to the assertion and later added that the interview did not "meet its standards due to lack of sufficient corroborating evidence". "At the time, not all of our reporting met our standards to air, but we have never stopped investigating the story," the statement said.
Robach, when questioned on the recently released video, said it caught her "in a private moment of frustration" and said the network continued reporting on the Epstein case. "In the years since no one has ever told me or the team to stop reporting on Jeffrey Epstein, and we have continued to aggressively pursue this important story," she was quoted as saying by AP.
ABC said it plans to air a two-hour-long documentary and six-part podcast on the Epstein case next year, according to reports.
The incident is being linked with Ronan Farrow who accused NBC News of not carrying forth the investigative reporting on powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein's sexual misconduct that led to the #MeToo Movement. Farrow later took the story to the New Yorker magazine and later won the Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for it.