There are destroyed public images, and then there are destroyed public images — and now there is Great Britain’s Sarah “Fergie” Ferguson. Her name will now forever be associated with getting caught on tape in a tabloid sting operation where she was allegedly trying to sell access to her ex-husband Prince Andrew for $700,000, apparently seeking to make big bucks from her remaining links to Buckingham Palace, and putting some $40,000 into her bag before leaving the scene of her forever-destroyed reputation’s graphic demise. And apparently being tipsy when it all occurred.
Adding to the humiliation: she says herself in the video that the Prince himself is squeaky clean, suggesting more than ever that she viewed her association with Buckingham Palace as a kind of fallback lifetime lottery — except in this discreet lottery no one except her and the clients to whom she was peddling Buckingham Palace access knew she was about to win big. Now, as this story rapidly exploded in England and throughout the world via TV, print and the Internet, she has issued a statement saying she is “devastated” and “regretful” by the video.
It’s best to start here with the video so you can see the train wreck of a person’s reputation before your eyes before reading the details and media reaction:
Even in this instant 24/7 media age with always-operating cable news, weblogs, Twitter, and still lively tabloids in Great Britain and the United States it’s unusual to see such a total destruction of someone’s public image. In this case it doesn’t entail sex but this is almost on a par with the implosion of Democrat John Edward’s reputation due to his affair while making America weep about his (fake) devotion to his cancer-stricken wife. Just look at the press reaction so far. To some, “Fergie” will seem a quintessential tragic figure as well as a corrupt one:
The New York Daily News:
The Duchess of York has been caught on tape trying to make big bucks off Buckingham Palace, selling access to ex-hubby Prince Andrew for more than $700,000.
The pathetic bid for money was completely unknown to the prince, who is the second son of Queen Elizabeth and fourth in line to the throne, according to the News of the World, which set up the sting operation.
Ferguson, a 50-year-old redhead, even says flat out the prince “never does accept a penny for anything,” before shaking on the shady deal.
Ferguson’s spokeswoman, Kate Waddington, confirmed to The Associated Press the recording was authentic. She said the duchess was “devastated” and regretted the embarrassment she had caused.
The tabloid details two secret meetings in New York and London where the former Weight Watchers spokeswoman unveiled her ploy for payments: blatantly asking for a $40,000 cash advance followed by 500,000 pounds ($718,500) as a wire transfer and a promise of future commissions in exchange for providing access to Britain’s royal family.
The sting, unveiled Sunday, includes video of the London meeting. Ferguson can be seen sitting in a bland Mayfair apartment, smoking a cigarette and sipping off a glass of red wine as a pile of bills sits on the coffee table.
The Duchess of York, clearly vulnerable and under the influence of alcohol, has been caught in a sordid undercover sting apparently offering to “sell” access to her former husband, Prince Andrew, for £500,000.
The footage, shot by the London tabloid News of the World, has polarised British society as the duchess appears more tragic than scheming, describing herself as broke and “not having a pot to piss in”. At one point, after lighting a cigarette, she puts her head in her hands, seemingly shocked by her own behaviour.
The newspaper alleges Sarah Ferguson asked for $US40,000 ($48,000) in cash as a first payment for an introduction to Prince Andrew, who works as an unpaid special representative for a government trade and investment agency. A commission of 1 per cent on any financial deals brokered by the meetings is also discussed. There is no suggestion that the prince had any knowledge of the meetings or any of the claims made by his former wife.
The footage shows the duchess at a coffee table with a bottle of wine and ashtray beside her. She can be seen looking at the £40,000 in cash and telling the undercover reporter, posing as an Indian company representative: “Look after me and he’ll look after you … you’ll get it back tenfold. I can open any door you want.”
This apparently followed a boozy dinner at a Mayfair restaurant where she reportedly bragged about her blueblood links: “I’m a complete aristocrat … love that, don’t you … it’s tremendously fabulous but I’ve never admitted that by the way.” Later, in a nearby upmarket apartment, slurring her words and repeating herself, the duchess appears confused and desperate, implying her former husband wants to help her financially – but making clear that if she arranges the meetings, Prince Andrew must never know about any monetary discussions.
The News of the World seems to have recorded Sarah Ferguson promising access to Prince Andrew, as a UK trade envoy, for £500,000. If true – and even a Government minister this morning condemned her apparently “shoddy and grubby” behaviour – this really is the end for Fergie’s claim to respectability.
It makes me sad. The Duchess, I know, was always over the top, a loud lively lass with a twinkle in her eye and an appalling taste in everything from men to clothes. But she was, undoubtedly, fun. She brought Diana down to earth, clowning about for the paparazzi at Klosters. She giggled at Buckingham Palace and showed too much leg at Clarendon House. Around her, Andrew beamed, Charles looked priggish, and the Queen looked like she was, for once, having a good time.
And when she fell, she fell so spectacularly, you kind of warmed to her. She was caught sucking a man’s toes. They were not Prince Andrew’s, and all hell broke loose. Fergie was banished from Royal circles, and even though she and her ex-husband stayed in touch, she was a pariah. This allowed her to date a long list of increasingly unappetising (but always wealthy) characters, which of course kept the tabloids buzzing around “the Duchess”. Her exploits grew more and more like a hysterical hen party that never led to marriage. Or, in her, case re-marriage.
But nothing could keep her down…..
…..Fergie, it seemed, was flawed, but human, and you couldn’t help wish her well. But now, the cat has used up all her lives. The accusation of selling access to her (unwitting and innocent) ex is ugly, greedy stuff, which won’t play well at the Palace, or in ordinary homes. Sarah Ferguson, the jolly Royal, is no more. The desperate Duchess has taken her place, and she’s not a pretty sight.
The BBC offers this good roundup detailing her ups and downs.
The scandal has now started to inspire Great Britain’s satirists such as this by the Daily Squib:
JEDDAH – Saudi Arabia – Sarah Ferguson has sold off one of her daughters to Prince Abdul bin Abdullah Mohammed Sheikh, who is part of the ruling Saudi Royal family the Duchess announced yesterday.
There was no toe-sucking involved, no hushed brown envelopes being passed around, this was all quite above board and perfectly legal — in Saudi Arabia.
Speaking from the Hyatt in Jeddah, the Duchess of York announced the sale of her daughter to the world’s press: “I have managed to secure my future for another three or four months……”
There was some speculation on the price of the transaction, but the Duchess was tight-lipped about the exact sum.
She’s currently on Sky News doing a paper review. Of course, she was asked about Sarah Ferguson’s troubles today.
Among her refreshingly frank comments:
“It’s shoddy and grubby and really upsetting.”
“She says she’s got no money — not much of an excuse.”*
(* I should point out that Miss Featherstone is unlikely ever to plead poverty as an excuse for anything. She is one of the wealthiest members of the Commons, thanks to an extensive familly business based on a chain of hardware shops around London.)
Expect this story to continue — which is not good news for “Fergie” or what remains of her reputation..