The U.K.’s former state phone company is the latest organization to distance itself from Prince Andrew after a prime time television interview threw fuel on the fire of the controversy surrounding his relationship with convicted child sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
BT Group Plc indicated it would only continue working with iDEA, a group that offers free digital and enterprise training, if it drops the patronage of Queen Elizabeth II’s second son.
“In light of recent developments we are reviewing our relationship with the organization and hope that we might be able to work further with them, in the event of a change in their patronage,” a spokeswoman for the London-based telecommunications company said by email.
Prince Andrew, who is 59 years old and eighth in line to the throne, spoke to the BBC in a special edition of its Newsnight show on Sunday night about his relationship with the disgraced financier Epstein, who killed himself in custody three months ago. He faced questions about allegations made by Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s accusers, who has said she was forced into sexual encounters with the Prince as a teenager.
The Prince denied those allegations and claimed he was at the mid-market Pizza Express restaurant in Woking, south England, on the night in 2001 when one incident is alleged to have taken place. He said he does not regret being friends with Epstein.
Other organizations have also distanced themselves from Prince Andrew, including his business initiative Pitch@Palace. A spokeswoman for AstraZeneca Plc said its three-year partnership with the program is due to expire at the end of this year and is being reviewed.
Insurance broker Aon Plc asked for its logo be removed from Pitch@Palace’s website, saying it had been wrongly listed as a sponsor while banking group Standard Chartered Plc said it wouldn’t renew its sponsorship when it expires next month for commercial reasons.
It’s difficult to estimate how many sponsors may have cut ties. Pitch@Palace’s ‘supporters’ page now shows a “page not found” error.
Students at the University of Huddersfield are also calling for Prince Andrew to resign as their chancellor. In a motion, the university’s student union said they should “not be represented by a man with ties to organized child sexual exploitation and assault.”
Pressed on Prince Andrew’s friendship with Epstein in a live TV debate Tuesday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “the institution of the monarchy is beyond reproach.” Earlier that day, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said Epstein’s victims needed to be the main concern for anyone discussing this case, before refusing to comment on calls for the prince to be interviewed by the FBI.
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