Prince Andrew faces more disgrace as business backers leave

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LONDON (AP) — Britain’s Prince Andrew faced further disgrace Tuesday as charitable partners and educational institutions began to distance themselves from him amid unfavorable fallout from an interview on his friendship with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Like most senior members of the royal family, Andrew is patron for charities and other civic endeavors, lending his name and the backing of the monarchy to the good works of all manner of institutions. But supporters of undertakings connected to Andrew are now reconsidering whether they want to be associated with him after his effort to draw a line under the Epstein scandal backfired so disastrously.

Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II, granted a no-holds barred interview to BBC’s Newsnight program to end years of speculation about his friendship with the tainted financier, who died in prison last summer while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges. Andrew’s failure to show empathy for the young women exploited by Epstein earned him widespread derision — and made corporate backers and universities think twice about their ties to this senior member of the House of Windsor.

Standard Chartered bank, a backer of Andrew’s flagship entrepreneur project, Pitch@Palace, has decided not to renew its sponsorship for “commercial reasons.’’ Professional services provider KPMG won’t renew its support for the initiative either, Britain’s Press Association reported. Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca says it is reviewing its three-year partnership, which is due to expire at the end of the year.

The fallout has not been limited to corporations. Andrew is a patron for dozens of organizations, and a few of the more prominent groups have acknowledged they are considering whether they want that bond to continue. London Metropolitan University is reviewing Andrew’s role as patron, and students at the University of Huddersfield, where Andrew is chancellor, are objecting to being “represented by a man with ties to organized child sexual exploitation and assault.’’

“Prince Andrew’s association with a known paedophile, Jeffrey Epstein ... combined with the allegations made by Virginia Giuffre that Prince Andrew sexually assaulted her make him an utterly unsuitable representative for us here at the University of Huddersfield,” according to a motion from a student panel. “We need to put survivors of sexual assault above royal connections and show students, alumni, and prospective students that this institution cares about their well-being, irrespective of the status of the alleged perpetrator.”

It is unclear what might happen at Huddersfield, as the situation is so unprecedented there is no formal process for what comes next.

“We are aware of the Students' Union meeting last night and the motion it passed regarding the chancellor,’’ the university said in a statement. “We listen to our students' views and concerns and we will now be consulting with them over the coming weeks."

The 59-year-old prince categorically denied claims that he had sex with Giuffre, who says she was trafficked by Epstein and had sex with Andrew on three occasions, including twice when she was 17.

Epstein died Aug. 10 in a New York prison while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, robbing his alleged victims a chance for their day in court. His death has been ruled a suicide by the city’s medical examiner.

But in response to clinical questioning by the BBC’s Emily Maitlis, Andrew responded with detailed answers that seemed insensitive to a public accustomed to emotional responses — particularly in an era in which social media has made even the rich and the powerful seem more accessible.

Worse still, Andrew defended his previous friendship with the billionaire investor because of the contacts it provided when he was preparing for a role as Britain's special trade representative. The damage to his image has prompted royal watchers to suggest Buckingham Palace will go into full damage control mode.

“I think he may eventually be forced to show how sorry he was that Epstein had many victims,’’ said Pauline Maclaran, author of "Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture." “There will be damage limitation.’’

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