“I realised within minutes of sitting down that it was going to be explosive,” says Emily Maitlis, as she remembers the interview closing November with Prince Andrew that has earned Newsnight a nomination within the News protection class at this 12 months’s BAFTA Television Awards. “First, he was tackling the subject matter head on. Secondly, the lack of apology or any real expression of regret told me that the prince still believed that his actions had broadly been the right ones. And thirdly, the level of detail was unlike anything I was expecting. It was just astonishing to be in that room listening. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.”
Back on the Newsnight base at London’s Broadcasting House, the programme editor, Esme Wren, was once fearing the worst as her presenter sat down throughout the town at Buckingham Palace. “I was actually waiting for Emily to call me and say they’d pulled it or cut it short after ten minutes. At the time, I felt like a father standing outside the labour ward waiting to hear news,” she remembers. In the tip, in fact, it was once a a hit supply — for Newsnight anyway. The interview were a 12 months within the making plans and Maitlis is relieved that the group held out for the in-depth interview they sought after: “We could have done something shorter, easier and less comprehensive much earlier. But we sat it out until we were given the assurance that it would be the kind of interview we needed to do. I’m glad we waited and were properly prepared for it.”
She and Wren had role-played what they concept may well be each and every imaginable reaction the prince may give to the questions on his hyperlinks to the disgraced financier and convicted intercourse culprit Jeffrey Epstein. After all, Wren had instructed Andrew’s representatives that he could be “asked about every piece of information in the public domain that we could gather”.
Yet regardless of the prep paintings, Maitlis was once nonetheless anxious. “I was incredibly nervous. How could I not be? 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.’ 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.”
After Maitlis returned to the place of work, she and Wren sat down within the modifying suite to observe the photos, an enjoy that left the editor “exhilarated and terrified” by way of what she was once witnessing: “It was there that the penny dropped for me on how significant this was. 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. 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.”
Following the printed, judgement was once handed by way of the general public and the clicking, with Maitlis lauded for the calm, forensic manner she took Andrew to job. Critiques of Prince Andrew, despite the fact that, had been quite extra scathing, together with his solutions to the probing described by way of many, together with former Buckingham Palace press secretary Dickie Arbiter, as “a car crash”.
The present royal PRs, on the other hand, have stayed silent at the subject — a minimum of in public. Says Wren: “There hasn’t been any mudslinging from the palace. Of course, they feel that the interview didn’t go brilliantly, but that wasn’t through our wrongdoing. We delivered a quite exceptional piece of journalism.”
“We know that the palace was happy with the interview. We had plenty of engagement with them after it went out,” unearths Maitlis. “I think their shock was not at the interview itself, but the reaction it caused in the days and weeks afterwards. Now, eight months on, it may feel like ‘a moment of television’, but we should never forgot the people at the centre of this whole story — Epstein’s accusers and what they’d been through and were, in some cases, still fighting. It was never meant to be a badge of honour — it was meant to be a chance to get to the heart of a story that had confused many people for so long.”
The Newsnight particular additionally arguably ended up giving recent impetus to the FBI investigation into Epstein’s crimes, one thing that has led just lately to the arrest of the prince’s pal Ghislaine Maxwell on intercourse trafficking fees, which she denies. Speaking about Maitlis’s talent at drawing out key data from her interviewees, Wren says, “She’s like a thoroughbred racehorse — if you give her the right preparation, she’ll outstrip everyone.”
Maitlis in flip feels that Newsnight has consolidated its place because the BBC’s flagship present affairs display due to the focal point of Wren, who was once appointed editor again in February 2018: “Esme is frankly incredible. She always appears so serene on the surface, but below the surface, there’s a huge amount of work going on that I never see. My sense is that Esme knew exactly what kind of programme she believed Newsnight could be, but she’s always been hands-off enough to let us feel we were finding our own way there.”