Duchess Of York Apologizes Over Newspaper Sting

Melissa Block talks to Kelvin MacKenzie, former editor of the British tabloid The Sun, about the newest scandal involving Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York. The former wife of Prince Andrew was tricked by the News of the World tabloid into offering to sell access to her ex-husband. The exchange was captured on video, where Ferguson tells the reporter, representing himself as a wealthy tycoon, that she will put him in contact with the prince for about $750,000. Ferguson says she deeply regrets the incident, which she called "a serious lapse of judgment." MacKenzie says Ferguson is deeply in debt, estranged from other members of the royal family, but protected from being cut off entirely from them because her children are in line to the British throne.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, is in the headlines again in England for another public embarrassment. She was caught in a sting, as shown on video, accepting about $40,000 in cash with the promise of hundreds of thousands of dollars more.

The sting was set up by the British tabloid, The News of the World, which had a reporter posing as an international tycoon. In exchange for the money, Sarah Ferguson promises to grant access to her ex-husband Prince Andrew.

(Soundbite of video clip)

Ms. SARAH FERGUSON (Duchess of York): (Unintelligible) ...open up all the channels, whatever you need, whatever you want.

BLOCK: You open up all the channels, whatever you need, whatever you want, Ferguson is shown saying on video, before she walks off with a computer case supposedly filled with cash. The duchess has since apologized for what she called her serious lapse in judgment and the embarrassment it caused.

Joining us to talk through the sordid details is Kelvin MacKenzie. He's the former editor of another British tabloid, The Sun. Welcome to the program.

Mr. KELVIN MACKENZIE (Former Editor, The Sun): Hi there.

BLOCK: Important to say that Sarah Ferguson is not denying this any way, right?

Mr. MACKENZIE: Oh, no, she couldn't deny it. In fact, your listeners might like to go online to see one of the more astonishing pieces of video they will see in their lives where a duchess is taking away $40,000 as a down payment ahead of basically $750,000 which she's seeking to give access to her ex-husband, Prince Andrew. The issue about Prince Andrew and why it's important is that Prince Andrew is effectively a trade envoy. He's unpaid, but he flies all over the world trying to help British businessmen gain access to markets.

BLOCK: Well, on tape, Sarah Ferguson does seem to be also implicating Prince Andrew in this, saying that he knows of the deal, is behind it. What's been the response from Buckingham Palace about that?

Mr. MACKENZIE: Well, Andrew and the Palace absolutely deny this. They knew nothing about it, did not encourage it, this was nothing to do with them. Prince Phillip, the Queen's husband, has not spoken to Fergie in 10 years because he thinks she's a complete waste of space. Prince Charles can't stand her, but they have a problem. Although she is no longer a member of the royal family, her two children are basically fifth and sixth in line.

BLOCK: Now, why would Sarah Ferguson be in such financial distress? I remember seeing her in Weight Watchers ads, she's had some book publishing deals, children's books.

Mr. MACKENZIE: Well, she lives the high life. She flies first class. She likes being chauffeur-driven in a Bentley. And also one other thing happened. She thought she'd make a comeback by publishing a third book in her Budgie series. She did a children's series about a helicopter. And that never happened. And one way and another, to protect herself on copyright and various other things, she ran up a $300,000 bill with her lawyers. And they are now suing her because she hasn't paid that.

Weight Watchers let her go. And there was no more money to come in so that she couldn't carry on flying around the world first class. As she stands today, she has no assets. And one of the issues that face the royal family is that she currently lives for nothing in the royal lodge at Windsor, which is her ex-husband's home.

The issue of the royal family now is, if we push her out of that, which is what we should do, that she actually has no money. What will she do then? Would she do something even more dramatic than she did in the News of the World video?

BLOCK: Kelvin MacKenzie, thank you for talking with us.

Mr. MACKENZIE: Thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: Kelvin MacKenzie is the former editor of the British tabloid The Sun.

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