The silence of good men can allow evil to triumph, but the faux apologies of accused men help normalize it.
Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, wants you to know that he’s sorry. Not for his decadeslong friendship with sex trafficker and rapist Jeffrey Epstein. Not for what Virginia Giuffre says happened when she was 17, that he allegedly raped her. Not for either intentionally or accidentally overlooking a sex trafficking ring led and facilitated by someone who accompanied him on “straightforward shooting weekends.” No, the prince is sorry for acting in a way that’s unbecoming of the royal family.
“We try and uphold the highest standards and practices,” Andrew told BBC’s Emily Maitlis in an interview that aired Saturday night. “And I let the side down, simple as that.”
Andrew’s most recent and clearly failed attempt to clear his name and rehabilitate his image makes him part of a long list of powerful men who have issued so-called “apologies” in the past few years. These men are bad at articulating concern for the damage they’ve (allegedly) caused, the serial abuse they’ve (allegedly) carried out, or the trauma they’ve (allegedly) inflicted. But they would like us to know the public debate about their behavior is embarrassing.
Like the president of the United States, who “apologized” for his “locker room talk” before calling the now infamous and yet mostly forgotten “Access Hollywood” tape “nothing more than a distraction from the important issues we’re facing today.” Or like Kevin Spacey, who claimed he “did not remember his encounter” with 14-year-old Anthony Rapp, who alleged Spacey made sexual advances. “But if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior.”
Such faux apologies have become so routine they’re best described as the “thoughts and prayers” of sexual assault allegations. We all get drunk. We all engage in “locker room talk.” We all have our behavior perceived in different ways. And we all consider people to be either potentially beneficial to our future success, or acceptable collateral damage for our career and cultural aspirations.
Yes, sexual assault and harassment are common. One in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, and a reported 81 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. But the frequency of gendered violence and harassment isn’t a reason to continuously lower the bar, nor is it a defense for removing the bar entirely.
During the 50-minute “Newsnight” interview, Andrew gave a variety of excuses and alibis. Some of these were bizarre — like a medical condition that he claims at one point made it impossible for him to sweat, therefore rendering one accuser’s account of him perspiring profusely false — and some were downright inexcusable, like his claim that his “tendency to be too honorable” kept him from cutting ties with Epstein via phone and resulted in the four-day stay with Epstein in 2010 documented by both the American and British press. That stay, it must be noted, happened two years after Epstein’s conviction for soliciting prostitution, a conviction we now know dramatically buried the lede.
Not once did Andrew apologize to Epstein’s victims. In fact, it seems the duke considers them to be nothing more than unavoidable casualties on his way to continued (and entirely unearned) success — the kind he can stomach as he stuffs his face with Pizza Express in Woking. "The people that I met and the opportunities that I was given to learn, either by him or because of him, were actually very useful,” Andrew said, acknowledging that his friendship with Epstein provided "some seriously beneficial outcomes.
Not once did he apologize to his accuser, Guiffre, whom he claims he doesn’t remember encountering.
“She says she met you in 2001,” Maitlis began. “She says she dined with you, danced with you … she went on to have sex with you in a house in Belgravia belonging to Gerlain Maxwell, your friend. Your response?
“I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady. None whatsoever,” Andrew replied, shaking his head.
“You don’t remember meeting her?”
“But you were staying at the house of a convicted sex offender.”
Andrew replied merely that it was “a convenient place to stay.”
Not once did he acknowledge the children Epstein victimized — children who would have been funneled in and out of Epstein's homes around the time of Andrew's visits. Instead, Andrew chose to highlight his reported involvement with the British charity the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), telling Maitlis due to his patronage of the NSPCC’s "Full Stop" campaign, he would have recognized abuse had he witnessed it.
The NSPCC noted on Twitter in August that the duke had not been involved with the charity for quite some time.
Offbeat medical conditions and stories of slumming with the common folk aside, Andrew’s non-apology is just another reminder that men with an immense amount of wealth, power and privilege are failing to do the bare minimum in the name of convenience; a convenience touted as “business savvy” or as the price of “social climbing.” And when the true source of their wealth, power and influence comes to light — the abuse and dehumanization of others — these men are sorry not for their actions, but for the destruction of their carefully crafted personas.
Andrew was born into one of the most privileged social classes on earth. Yet none of this elite status, wealth, education or privilege — not even the “highest standards and practices of the royal family” — stopped him from taking the path of, in his own words, least resistance. A path where child rapists are friends and sex traffickers provide you opportunities to learn.
Prioritizing the convenience of the few over the safety and well-being of the many works to the advantage of those in positions of power and, in Epstein and Andrew’s case, to the detriment of children and victims everywhere. The silence of good men allows evil to triumph, but the faux apologies of accused men helps normalize it.
- Danielle Campoamor is a senior editor at Romper and author of Bustle's Abortion AMA column. She's been published in Teen Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, CNN Opinion, Playboy, Newsweek, BuzzFeed, and Marie Claire, among others.
This piece was first published by NBC Think.
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