CHICAGO (Reuters) - Britain’s Sarah Ferguson said her own self-hatred, mounting debts and “gross stupidity” led her to fall for a videotaped sting by a journalist in which she appeared to offer to sell access to her ex-husband, Prince Andrew.
“I’ve been a huge overtrusting, idiotic, stupid woman that went to look for the perfect situation, and that’s all I can say really,” the Duchess of York told Chicago-based talk show host Oprah Winfrey.
Ferguson’s appearance, aired on Tuesday, was her first interview since the video was posted on the website of the British tabloid News of the World last month and she used “The Oprah Winfrey Show” as many have done before — to chastise herself very publicly for her actions.
In the video, played to Ferguson during her interview, Ferguson appears to ask for and accept $40,000 in cash in exchange for access to the prince, although she says that Andrew himself would never accept payment for access.
Then she asks for another 500,000 pounds ($735,000) — what she told Winfrey was a “a long shot” and an amount she pulled “out of the sky.”
“Poor love, I feel sorry for her. I feel really sorry for her. Sad, really,” Ferguson, her eyes rimmed red, said while the tape played.
“You look at the devil in the face, which you do. Then you forgive, and you say, ‘OK, I’ve made almost a mistake that will never be forgotten,’ and forgive,” added Ferguson, who is widely known as “Fergie.”
The sting caused major embarrassment for the 50-year-old Ferguson. Her ex-husband the Duke of York, who is the second son of Queen Elizabeth and fourth in line to the throne, acts as Britain’s special representative for international trade and investment. Ferguson apologized for her “serious lapse in judgment” in a statement after the sting video was posted on May 23.
Ferguson told Winfrey she was “in the gutter” during the videotaped sting, the culmination of what the former weight-loss spokesman called a lengthy downward spiral.
Ferguson said she had met the journalist-poseur previously and told him she suspected he was a News of the World journalist. Yet she met with him again.
“This is the key to how out-of-control I was. Because I instinctively knew ... I actually told him, you’re a News of the World journalist ... because I could tell,” Ferguson said.
Asked why, Ferguson said, “A friend of mine needed $38,000, urgently. That’s why I needed the money urgently, for my friend. I was crying, and I thanked him for helping my friend,” she said, tears welling up.
Winfrey said it was unbelievable that someone of her stature and connections to the royal family would be so desperate. Why hadn’t she asked for help?
“Absolutely not. Because I’m divorced from the royal family and I would never dream of doing that,” said Ferguson, who said she relies on Andrew for shelter because she cannot afford to pay her own rent.
She said she was “substantially” in debt and did not deny her 1996 divorce settlement from Andrew paid her a modest 20,000 pounds ($29,500) a year.
“That’s why I must look at bankruptcy. I — I must look at all these situations now. Whereas before, I was spiraling so out of control, I was looking for the quick fixes, places, where I wouldn’t normally look,” she said.
“(Andrew) knows this is really very extraordinary and therefore he reached out with understanding, which makes it much worse for me. Because he’s such a good man,” Ferguson said.
“The Oprah Winfrey Show” is among the top-rated daytime television talk shows in the United States and is seen on 215 U.S. stations and in some 144 countries around the world. Celebrities often appear on the show to talk about their lives and, in some cases, to try to redeem tarnished reputations after a scandal.
Prince Andrew and Ferguson have two daughters, 21-year-old Beatrice and Eugenie, 20.
Editing by Frances Kerry