ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Britain's Prince Andrew says he is stepping back from his public duties for the foreseeable future. Companies and universities have severed ties with the queen's second son because of what was widely seen as a disastrous interview. That interview was meant as damage control focusing on the prince's friendship with the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
NPR's Frank Langfitt is following the story in London. Frank, this has been moving so quickly. You were just on the air...
FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: (Laughter) Very, very quickly.
SHAPIRO: ...With us talking about this BBC interview which took place Saturday night. Why is the prince stepping back now?
LANGFITT: Well, what he says wormily (ph), Ari, is that his former friendship with Epstein is a, quote, "major disruption to the royal family's work." But the bottom line is, Ari, he didn't have any choice. Public support for the prince, which has never been very strong, frankly, is collapsing. The accounting firm KPMG and Standard Chartered Bank, they're both ending their sponsorship of a thing called Pitch@Palace, which is Prince Andrew's flagship charity. There's some Australian universities who also look like they're pulling out of it. And the telecom giant here, BT, says they could keep supporting a digital award that's associated with the prince if the award gets a different patron. So the message is very clear - people don't really want to work with them right now.
SHAPIRO: OK, so we know how this story goes when we're talking about a CEO or an elected public official. What does it mean for a royal to say he's pulling back from public duties?
LANGFITT: That's a great question. He's - Andrew is what's called a working royal. And so he sort of serves as the public face, a public face, of the monarchy. So what he'll tend to do is make appearances on behalf of charities and causes. The things he's most interested in is entrepreneurship, science and tech. He's also a supporter of the English National Ballet. He's going to stop doing that and sort of go very low-profile, I think. He still, of course, will continue to receive income. His main source comes from the queen, his mom. But basically, I think you're not going to see a lot of him out there much for - maybe for quite some time.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Remind us what it is that the prince said in that interview that has made him so toxic.
LANGFITT: A lot of things, Ari. You know, back in 2010, the prince stayed at Epstein's home in New York City. And this was already after Epstein had served times for soliciting prostitution from a minor. The prince said he went to say goodbye to Epstein and end the friendship. But he spent several days there, which didn't make a lot of sense to people. Another problem is that a woman accused Epstein of trafficking her to sleep with the prince back in 2001 when she was 17. The prince said he didn't remember the girl - then her name was Virginia Roberts - despite a picture of him with his arm around her.
Now just today, a Sky News poll came out here showing that just 6% percent of people polled said they believed the prince's explanations. And 47% thought his answers on BBC that Saturday night interview have damaged the royal family.
SHAPIRO: And beyond saying that he is pulling back from public duties, is Prince Andrew doing more to try to control the damage here?
LANGFITT: Well, I think today he did. I mean, he issued a statement basically. And what was striking was he showed contrition, which really you did not see in that BBC interview, which is one reason why I think people were really upset with him. You know, during the BBC interview, he never - what people say is he never expressed remorse for what Epstein did to his victims. Today, the statement, it was a totally different tone, Ari. He wrote, I continually and unequivocally regret - to unequivocally regret my associate with Jeffrey Epstein. He said, he deeply sympathized with the victims and can only hope that they can rebuild their lives and added that he's willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with the investigations if required. So a totally different response today than what we heard Saturday night and obviously doing whatever he can to try to repair the damage.
SHAPIRO: NPR's Frank Langfitt in London, thank you.
LANGFITT: You're very welcome, Ari.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.