Baffling sentence in Andrew’s statement
Prince Andrew released an extensive statement overnight addressing his intensely scrutinised friendship with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
The Duke of York said he was "eager to clarify the facts" to "avoid further speculation" about his private life, which happened to involve repeated visits to Epstein's properties.
Epstein killed himself inside one of America's most secure prisons earlier this month as he awaited trial for orchestrating a sex trafficking ring and abusing dozens of underage girls, some as young as 14.
"It is apparent to me since the suicide of Mr Epstein that there has been an immense amount of media speculation about so much in his life. This is particularly the case in relation to my former association or friendship with Mr Epstein," Andrew said.
"I met Mr Epstein in 1999. During the time I knew him, I saw him infrequently and probably no more than only once or twice a year. I have stayed in a number of his residences.
"At no stage during the limited time I spent with him did I see, witness or suspect any behaviour of the sort that subsequently led to his arrest and conviction.
"I have said previously that it was a mistake and an error to see him after his release in 2010 and I can only reiterate my regret that I was mistaken to think that what I thought I knew of him was evidently not the real person, given what we know now. I have tremendous sympathy for all those affected by his actions and behaviour.
"His suicide has left many unanswered questions and I acknowledge and sympathise with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure.
"This is a difficult time for everyone involved and I am at a loss to be able to understand or explain Mr Epstein's lifestyle. I deplore the exploitation of any human being and would not condone, participate in, or encourage any such behaviour."
How to describe that statement? Guardian columnist Marina Hyde, whose blistering piece about Andrew and Epstein drew global attention yesterday, perhaps summed it up best: "What is this f***ing word salad?"
Did Buckingham Palace even bother to read the thing before hitting send?
Read this sentence again, and try to discern its meaning: "I have said previously that it was a mistake and an error to see him after his release in 2010 and I can only reiterate my regret that I was mistaken to think that what I thought I knew of him was evidently not the real person, given what we know now."
I can only reiterate my regret that I was mistaken to think that what I thought I knew of him was evidently not the real person, given what we know now. Is that English? I've read it 37 times, and each time it somehow becomes less coherent.
It seems Andrew is trying to say that he regrets thinking Epstein was a good guy. I'm not sure the words he wrote actually mean that, but the grammar is so thoroughly mangled that it's hard to tell.
More importantly, the Duke is asking us to believe he suffered from a truly astonishing level of ignorance.
When Andrew refers ambiguously to Epstein's "release", he is talking about the man's release from prison, where he had stayed for a year after being convicted of soliciting a minor for prostitution.
The 16-year-old girl in that case was one of dozens of accusers. Among them was the 14-year-old victim whose parents had first alerted police to Epstein's crimes.
"This was not a 'he said, she said' situation. This was 50-something shes and one he, and the shes all basically told the same story," Palm Beach Police Chief Michael Reiter later told The Miami Herald.
Epstein was charged for that lone offence with the older girl as part of his sweetheart plea deal, which has since been slammed as far too lenient.
With that context, let's return to Andrew's statement, and specifically the words "given what we know now".
What we know now is exactly what everyone already knew back in 2010 - that Epstein was an underage sex offender. It was not an allegation, it was a fact. He had gone to jail for it.
Yet Andrew claims to have had no idea about Epstein's true nature when he continued their friendship after that point.
When Andrew was spotted receiving a foot massage from a "young Russian woman" in Epstein's New York residence, it was after Epstein had been convicted for procuring an underage girl.
Ditto for when Andrew was photographed walking with Epstein in Central Park, prompting the New York Post to run its infamous "Prince & Perv" headline.
And again for when he was captured on video waving goodbye to a woman from inside Epstein's townhouse in December of 2010.
Andrew's statement is baffling in other ways as well.
He refers to his "former association or friendship" with Epstein. Well, which was it? An association or a friendship?
The Duke says he saw Epstein "infrequently" and no more than twice a year, clearly trying to distance himself from the man. But in the next sentence he reveals he visited "a number of his residences", and it has already been reported that he stayed at Epstein's house for a period of six days in 2010.
He says it was "a mistake and an error" to keep seeing Epstein. Mistakes and errors are the same thing. Not the worst of sins, I'll admit, but the grammar Nazi within me thought it was worth a mention.
Andrew ends by saying he is unable to understand or explain "Mr Epstein's lifestyle", as though the repeated sexual abuse of girls as young as 14 was a lifestyle choice.
The statement, in short, is an absolute mess. It was supposed to stop questions about Andrew's private life. Instead, it has only spawned more.