On Saturday, amid growing pressure over his friendship with the disgraced financier, Prince Andrew released a statement saying he did not “see, witness or suspect any behaviour of the sort that subsequently led to [the] arrest and conviction.
(Presumably Epstein’s earlier conviction for soliciting an underage girl for prostitution in 2008 for which he spent 13 months in custody didn’t trouble Prince Andrew.)
Virginia Roberts Giuffre stood outside a New York courtroom on Tuesday, after speaking publicly in court along with 15 other victims, and issued a direct challenge to the Duke of York to the gathered reporters.
“He knows exactly what he’s done, and I hope he comes clean about it.”
Later that day a friend of the Duke of York reportedly told the UK’s Telegraph that the widely circulated photograph of Prince Andrew with his arm around a-then 17-year old Roberts-Giuffre in Maxwell’s London home in 2001, was ‘digital trickery’.
“The picture is a fake, and the girl’s story is a fantasy,” this source told the Telegraph. “Look at the picture. It has clearly been faked. Andrew’s fingers appear quite slender, like a girl’s fingers. They are also a strange shade of red.
His real fingers are actually much chubbier - quite small and chubby.”
Hence, we are told, and expected to believe, the 35-year-old Roberts Giuffre has concocted the story in a bid to ‘make a name for herself’.
The imputation – girl seeks fame and fortune via high profile male - is desperately familiar. What’s far less well-known is exactly what good has ever stemmed from any woman alleging sexual misconduct against a powerful individual.
The Loudest Voice, anyone? From Harvey Weinstein to Roger Ailes to Bill Cosby: riches, adoration and glory hardly seem to have flown readily to any of their victims of sexual abuse and harassment. To the contrary, in most cases it’s been devastation that their victims have shared.
And yet? The idea that a woman like Roberts Giuffre would doctor an image to ensnare a royal Prince still prevails in some quarters. In the very same quarters in which the Duke of York’s insipid denial of any knowledge of any wrongdoing about his friend is taken as gospel. It should be extraordinary that ‘digital trickery’ was even proffered, let alone published, as an accepted explanation for the damning image.
But it isn’t. There is, seemingly, no end to the lengths people will go to protect some men.
One thing is worse than the suggestion that women readily falsely accuse men of misconduct for their own gain. It's the fact that, still, in the year 2019, post #MeToo, post hoards of women who were ignored, dismissed, vilified and worse for their claims, sometimes for decades, finally being believed, there are people who genuinely believe it is fanciful.
There are still people, apparently, who can look at all the evidence, the avalanche of substantiated instances of powerful men abusing their authority to sexually assault and harass women around them, and still conclude that conniving women desperate for 15 minutes of fame, not predatory men, are the problem.