Harry and Meghan’s friend has shocked Good Morning Britain viewers by accusing the Royal family of hushing up claims against Prince Andrew.
Journalist Omid Scobie spoke after Buckingham Palace launched an investigation into bullying allegations made by former aides against Meghan Markle this week.
The co-author of Harry and Meghan biography Finding Freedom spoke on Good Morning Britain from his Canary Wharf home this morning.
He told presenters Kate Garraway and Ben Shepherd: ‘This is an institution that remained silent about the allegations about Prince Andrew. It does feel we have a slightly uneven playing field here.’
But royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams told MailOnline that Mr Scobie’s comments were not only ‘disingenuous’ but a bid to ‘deflect attention from the bullying allegations’ from 2018.
He explained Prince Andrew is no longer a working member of the royal family, ‘faces serious allegations’ and has ‘promised to take part in FBI investigation into Epstein’s accomplices to bring justice for his victims’.
Mr Fitzwilliams added there is ‘also an investigation by the French police and Scotland Yard’ and the palace ‘no longer acts on his behalf’.
Andrew is set to miss Trooping the Colour on June 12 which will mark the Queen’s 95th birthday. Omid Scobie spoke on Good Morning Britain from his Canary Wharf home today
On Wednesday night, the Palace confirmed that its HR team will ‘look into’ allegations the Duchess of Sussex bullied staff, saying it ‘does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace’.
An aide claiming to have been bullied by Meghan welcomed the Queen’s investigation into her and Harry’s alleged mistreatment of staff and declared: ‘We will finally be able to tell the truth’.
Mr Scobie today denied witnessing any bullying during the time he was researching his famed Finding Freedom biography. He said: ‘Last year I got to know very closely people who were working closely with them and I myself hadn’t come across bullying, I came across people frazzled.’
Mr Scobie (pictured) told presenters Kate Garraway and Ben Shepherd: ‘This is an institution that remained silent about the allegations about Prince Andrew. It does feel we have a slightly uneven playing field here’
He added: ‘I also understand anyone’s experience needs to be heard and like any responsible business there needs to be an investigation but at the same time this is an institution that remained silent about the allegations about Prince Andrew. It does feel we have a slightly uneven playing field here.’
His comments sparked anger among viewers, with one blasting Mr Scobie for his ‘bias’. They wrote: ‘Scobie you are so biased! Because you haven’t heard of this story it means it didn’t happen? These people have rights. Do you honestly think at this moment The Times would come forward with gossip?’
Another added: ‘The palace did do something about Andrew. He was told 2 step down + stay away + he has. He should cooperate with FBI yes but the palace did their bit. Also if enough evidence + they weren’t just wanting him as witness the FBI would get anyway. These r 2 different things.[sic]’
Mr Fitzwilliams told MailOnline: ‘Andrew indeed faces serious allegations and we await further developments, as he has promised to cooperate with the FBI investigation into Epstein’s accomplices to bring justice for his victims.
‘There is also an investigation by the French police and Scotland Yard has expressed willingness to assist the FBI. It has, however, not been proven he did anything criminal.
‘Since Buckingham Palace no longer acts on Andrew’s behalf since he stepped down and refers enquires to his legal team, bringing this up is an attempt to deflect attention from the allegations of bullying by Meghan.
Meghan Markle spoke to Oprah Winfrey for the interview (as pictured above), which will air on Sunday, and accused the Royal Family of perpetuating falsehoods about us
‘Since she sees herself as a victim, this could be a seriously embarrassing issue for her to deal with. There were rumours about this and undoubtedly the Palace should have investigated the original complaints in 2018.
‘It would be ironic that the courtiers, or “men in grey suits”, whom the Sussexes are reported to loathe and are likely to attack in the interview on Oprah, may have attempted to protect her by ignoring these allegations.
‘These should have been investigated when they were reported by Jason Knauf, then the Sussexes’ communications secretary, in October 2018, as his leaked email has revealed. As the Sussexes are discovering, there are dangers in royals giving interviews, especially when accompanied by the boast that nothing is off limits.’
Meanwhile, Harry and Meghan’s two-hour upcoming tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey is set to be aired in the US on Sunday and on ITV in the UK on Monday evening at 9pm.
A royal source told the Daily Mail last night that the emergence of the bullying claims had ‘shaken’ many staff, both past and present, and brought up ‘many unhappy memories’ about a particularly ‘toxic period’.
On Wednesday night, the Palace confirmed that its HR team will ‘look into’ the allegations, saying it ‘does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace’
There is no timetable to the investigation but it is understood that any changes in policies and procedures will be shared publicly in an annual review expected later in the year.
Meghan said The Times is being ‘used by Buckingham Palace to peddle a wholly false narrative based on misleading and harmful misinformation’ about her treatment of staff after former aides accused her of ’emotional cruelty and manipulation’, reducing them to tears and leaving them ‘shaking’ with fear.
Her lawyers said the former actress was ‘saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma’.
Jason Knauf – the Sussexes’ then communications secretary who now heads the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s charitable foundation – made a bullying complaint in October 2018 in an apparent attempt to force Buckingham Palace to protect staff.
A source told the newspaper Harry begged his senior aide not to take the matter further, but it also reported lawyers for the duke and duchess deny the meeting took place and that Harry would not have interfered with staff matters.
Knauf reportedly sent an email outlining the duchess’s alleged actions to Simon Case – the Duke of Cambridge’s then private secretary and now the cabinet secretary – after conversations with Samantha Carruthers, the head of human resources.
His comments sparked anger among viewers, with one blasting Mr Scobie for his ‘bias’
The Duchess of Sussex (pictured with the royal family) is accused of ‘driving out’ two PAs and shattering the confidence of another member of Kensington Palace staff – with one former aide branding Harry and his wife ‘outrageous bullies’ in The Times earlier this week
Case then forwarded it to Carruthers, who was based at Clarence House.
The Times reported Knauf wrote in his email: ‘I am very concerned that the duchess was able to bully two PAs out of the household in the past year. The treatment of X was totally unacceptable.
‘The duchess seems intent on always having someone in her sights.
‘She is bullying Y and seeking to undermine her confidence.
‘We have had report after report from people who have witnessed unacceptable behavior towards Y.’
Knauf also made clear he was concerned nothing had been done, or would be done in future, to protect palace staff.
Royal experts speak out about Harry and Meghan row
Royal biographer Hugo Vickers told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘The Queen was extremely generous to them and when Harry dropped a bombshell and said they wanted to go off in January last year. The Queen left the door wide open for them and said ‘let’s have a year to think about it, see how it all goes’.
‘Even Harry in his interview with James Cordon the other day referred to chats via Zoom with Prince Philip. They’ve not been cut off, that’s ridiculous. I mean they may think these things but I’m afraid it seems to be very much of their own making.’
Another royal biographer, Angela Levin, told the programme: ‘I think it is shaky ground but I think the Queen has to put aside her favourite motto which is don’t explain and don’t complain and actually come back.
‘You cannot have this torrent of accusation and not do anything. I mean we’re not in 1936 now when Edward VIII made tremendous fuss about the monarchy and there was bad feeling because he married Wallace Simpson and he felt they were badly treated.
‘This is modern Britain and with all the outlets, the pounding on their head – I think it’s quite extraordinary that Meghan would want to do this while she was pregnant. She had a miscarriage. You are very vulnerable when you’re pregnant. Why put yourself in this terrible position?
‘She’s one of the most famous women in the world. She’s very rich now. She’s got what more than anybody could ask for and yet if she doesn’t get her own way she’s powerful – she will just go on and on and on.’
Mr Vickers added: ‘The Royal Family has been doing their best during the pandemic to keep our morale going. We’ve had some very good broadcasts from the Queen, we’ve had William and Kate zooming in all over the place, the Royal Family getting out and about and to be honest that’s what they do and these things will just pass by.
‘The Queen actually gave Harry and Meghan the entire Commonwealth to work with and the job of the Royal Family is to support the Queen in their role and then when the Queen doesn’t need them, they can pursue their own endeavours – lots of them do wonderful work – so I personally feel the Royal Family is not in crisis because they are doing a good job, they are serving us whereas I cannot help but agree with Angela that Harry and Meghan are serving themselves. They’re sitting in a garden in California in the sunshine when we’ve all been through a cold lockdown winter – look at the contrast.’
He said Carruthers ‘agreed with me on all counts that the situation was very serious’, but added: ‘I remain concerned that nothing will be done’.
Melissa Touabti, the second of Meghan’s personal assistants to leave, departed six months after the royal wedding after she ended up in tears, according to reports.
Lawyers for the duke and duchess said the Sussexes believed staff to be comfortable and happy.
The Duke of York, who didn’t appear in his daughter Princess Beatrice‘s wedding photos last year, stepped back from public life in 2019 after a disastrous BBC Newsnight interview about his relationship with Epstein.
Last month it was revealed Andrew is set to miss Trooping the Colour on June 12 which will mark the Queen’s 95th birthday.
Andrew is facing accusations from alleged victim Virginia Roberts that she was forced to have sex with him on three occasions when she was aged 17 in 2001.
In response to the outcry over Ms Roberts’s allegations, the Queen’s son has been forced to give up royal duties and step down from all his charitable patronages.
Lawyers for the victims of Epstein have called on the Prince to submit himself for an FBI interview after the US agency made it clear they wished to speak with him.
But he has so far not been interviewed by the FBI despite claiming that he has reached out to the US Department of Justice and agreed to co-operate with their investigation.
The Duke’s long-time friend Ghislaine Maxwell, 59, is currently awaiting a trial in America on charges of grooming teenage girls as young as 14 for Epstein to abuse.
Defending the duchess’ management of people, Mr Scobie and Carolyn Durand’s Finding Freedom book says: ‘Americans can be much more direct, and that often doesn’t sit well in the much more refined institution of the monarchy.’
But staff who spoke to The Times allege that it was worse than that. One said: ‘I had unpleasant experiences with her. I would definitely say humiliated.’ Another said they were ‘shaking’ and ‘terrified’ after a row about whether Meghan was told the media was attending one of her events.
Months after the wedding the couple embarked on their first royal tour, visiting Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga. When staff complained of stress it is said that a senior adviser tried to reassure them by saying: ‘You are dealing with a very difficult lady’.
Meghan’s lawyers have said that their client had been distressed by negative press stories about her while living in the UK and her friends became ‘rightly concerned for her welfare, specifically as she was pregnant, unprotected by the institution and prohibited from defending herself’.
But aides trying to defend themselves before Sunday’s Oprah interview, have described bending over backwards for her as soon as she arrived. They also revealed that she was asked if she wanted to continue acting or working in the film industry, such was the clamor in the Royal Household to keep Harry’s new wife on side. But Meghan politely declined.
An insider with knowledge of the conversation told The Times: ‘The entire place, because of everything about her, and because of what Harry’s previous girlfriends had been through, was bending over backwards to make sure that every option was open’. Another source told the newspaper: ‘Everyone knew that the institution would be judged by her happiness’.
Meghan’s lawyers say she had left her life behind in the US to support her husband and work with him on charitable work and joint passion projects. The Finding Freedom book the couple deny collaborating with, says: ‘Nothing could convince Harry that some of the old guard at the palace simply didn’t like Meghan and would stop at nothing to make her life difficult’.
Virginia Roberts, one of the victims of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, claims she was forced to have sex with the Duke, now 60, on three occasions, allegations he vehemently denies along with any other wrongdoing
Responding to this allegation, a source told The Times: ‘The way I see it, their view of not getting institutional support was that they were not getting permission to blow up the institution’s relationships with the media’. The Sussexes’ lawyers denies these claims.
Another insider claimed that staff were panicked when there were rows with the Sussexes, because it was considered so unusual in the royal palaces.
‘When someone decides not to be civil, they have no idea what to do. They were run over by her, and then run over by Harry. They had no idea what to do’, the source said.
A spokesman for the Sussexes said in a statement to The Times: ‘Let’s just call this what it is — a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation.
‘We are disappointed to see this defamatory portrayal of The Duchess of Sussex given credibility by a media outlet.
‘It’s no coincidence that distorted several-year-old accusations aimed at undermining the duchess are being briefed to the British media shortly before she and the duke are due to speak openly and honestly about their experience of recent years.
‘In a detailed legal letter of rebuttal to The Times, we have addressed these defamatory claims in full, including spurious allegations regarding the use of gifts loaned to the duchess by The Crown.
‘The duchess is saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma. She is determined to continue her work building compassion around the world and will keep striving to set an example for doing what is right and doing what is good.’
Buckingham Palace earlier declined to comment when contacted by the Mail. The duchess denies bullying and her lawyers stated that one individual left after findings of misconduct.