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Prince Andrew agreed to do his infamous Newsnight interview after a producer taunted him about his “Randy Andy” nickname, it has emerged.
Sam McAlister, the woman responsible for securing the landmark BBC interview, said the final meeting which convinced the Duke of York to appear on television saw her “give it to him very bluntly”.
“Sir. I have lived in this country for over 40 years and, until now, I only knew two things about you,” she told him.
“It's that you're known as ‘Air Miles Andy’ and ‘Randy Andy’ and I can absolutely tell you that the latter really doesn't help you in your current predicament.”
Fearing she had “blown our chances of landing the interview of a lifetime”, McAlister waited for a response as her team - presenter Emily Maitlis and Newsnight deputy editor Stewart Macleancer - looked “shocked”.
“There was a long pause,” she said. “Then Andrew laughed. The room collectively exhaled.”
Prince Andrew had been joined in the meeting by his daughter Princess Beatrice, who took notes and appeared “anxious”, and his then-private secretary Amanda Thirsk, the producer said.
Afterwards, he claimed to be “going upstairs” to have tea with his mother the Queen to ask her advice.
The eventual interview saw the Duke make a series of astonishing claims, including that he could not sweat, give an alibi of being at Pizza Express and fail to express total regret for his association with paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
The disastrous fallout resulted in his “stepping down” from royal duties, and was followed by events that would eventually lead to him paying a multi-million-pound settlement in a civil sex abuse case without admitting wrongdoing.
McAlister has now shared details of the Newsnight interview in her new book, Scoops: Behind The Scenes Of The BBC's Most Shocking Interviews, syndicated in the Daily Mail.
She describes how she was first contacted by a PR for the Duke’s Pitch@Palace initiative asking if Newsnight would like an interview about young entrepreneurs, and declined.
A second attempt, in which the Duke was willing to talk about anything except Epstein, was also turned down by the current affairs programme in May 2019.
By November, following the arrest and death of Epstein and testimony from his victims, the Duke’s team agreed to a meeting in person to discuss terms.
Princess Beatrice 'evidently anxious'
The Duke was joined by Princess Beatrice, with McAlister noting: “To be frank, the only thing worse than speaking to a prospective interviewee about allegations of sexual impropriety and sex with a 17-year-old girl is having to do so in front of his daughter.
“Princess Beatrice was polite and engaged, but, unlike her father, she was evidently anxious about the meeting and clearly there to protect his interests.
“I'd heard she was close to the Queen. The Prince's eldest daughter was now, I felt, the person who could make the difference between us getting the interview or not.”
Saying there was “never any attempt” to know or change what Maitlis would ask on-screen, McAlister said the Duke’s disclosures were “jaw-dropping stuff”.
“And then he said something I'll never forget,” she said.
“As we concluded, he turned to Princess Beatrice and said they had a lot to discuss and should go, straight after, upstairs, to talk about it, over a cup of tea, with Mum.
“For a split second, I almost scoffed; what on earth did a grown man need to talk to his mum for? And then it hit me. 'Mum' was the Queen.
“Less than 24 hours later, he agreed to the interview.”
The full interview was watched by Ms Thirsk, an equerry, and the Newsnight team, with no lawyers or palace press office staff.
Afterwards, realising how badly the interview had gone for Andrew, McAlister said she “couldn’t go” on an offered tour of Buckingham Palace fearing she “wouldn’t have been able to speak to him in good faith”.
Scoops: Behind The Scenes Of The BBC's Most Shocking Interviews by Sam McAlister is published by Oneworld on July 14.