Emily Maitlis reveals ‘fear’ behind the scenes of Newsnight’s Prince Andrew interview

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Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis, 49, has reflected on how “incredibly nervous” she was about her award-winning BBC interview with Prince Andrew. The journalist opened up about the wise words of advice she received from her editor Esme Wren before heading to Buckingham Palace.

I was incredibly nervous.

Emily Maitlis

Emily, who won Interview of the Year and Scoop of the Year awards at the Royal Television Society’s Television Journalism Awards for her interview with the Duke of York, Prince Andrew about American sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, also discussed why they held the interview close to their chests.

“I was incredibly nervous. How could I not be?” she began.

“I remember Esme saying, ‘This interview has to be a document that people can return to in the future.

“It might be the only chance we get to set the record straight.’”

Emily went on to discuss: “So we kept it very close to our chests until it was done.

“The fear was that the more people who knew, the more likely it was that something would go wrong,” she added during an interview with Radio Times.

Emily’s ground-breaking interview with Prince Andrew focussed around his links to American sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who died in August.

The journalist’s editor, Esme, recalled how she was left feeling “exhilarated and terrified” after their performance.

“It was there that the penny dropped for me on how significant this was,” she said before adding: “We’d assumed that he’d want to show empathy to the victims or pin the blame on Jeffrey Epstein.

“We couldn’t understand why he hadn’t done that.”

While Esme and Emily prepared for the moment by partaking in role play of the situation, the former admitted: “We definitely thought he’d be spikier — in fact, Emily said that, in the role-playing, I’d been a lot tougher as Prince Andrew than he turned out to be in person.”

During the interview back in November, Emily pressed the Duke of York on whether he feels any sense of guilt, regret, or shame about his behaviour with Jeffrey, to which he divulged: “As far as Mr Epstein was concerned, it was the wrong decision to go and see him in 2010.

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“As far as my association with him was concerned, it had some seriously beneficial outcomes in areas that have nothing to do with what I would describe as what we’re talking about today.”

He continued: “The people I met and the opportunities that I was given to learn either by [Epstein] or because of him were actually very useful.

“Do I regret the fact that he has quite obviously conducted himself in a manner unbecoming? Yes.”

Elsewhere, Emily recently revealed the text message she received from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s political adviser Dominic Cummings, after she said he had “broken the rules” by travelling from London to Durham during lockdown.

The BBC Two host said how it was “surreal” to hear from him, as she explained: “[Dominic Cummings] sent me a text of support. It was peak surreal getting a message of support from him in the middle of all the crazy stuff.”

Emily went into detail about the public response she received after her appearance.

“I think that was the biggest I’ve had – more than Andrew, more than anything,” she added during an interview with Tatler.

“I was overwhelmed by it; I wasn’t expecting such a flood of warmth.”

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