(Bloomberg) -- A pizza restaurant in England was flooded by satirical reviews on TripAdvisor Inc. in the wake of Prince Andrew’s rare television interview on Saturday night.
The popularity of the PizzaExpress Ltd. eatery in a commuter town southwest of London boomed immediately after Queen Elizabeth II’s second son denied sleeping with Virginia Roberts, one of the alleged teenage sex slaves of pedophile financier Jeffery Epstein.
In an extraordinary interview with the BBC, the prince said he remembered taking his daughter Princess Beatrice to the pizza restaurant in Surrey on the night he was alleged to have had sex with Roberts in London. When pressed why he recalled this date so clearly, he replied, “because going to PizzaExpress in Woking is an unusual thing for me to do, a very unusual thing for me to do.”
Reviewers relished the chance to spice up their faux experiences at the pizza chain. “Came here nearly 20 years ago, I’ve dined with presidents and kings since, but nothing sticks in my mind like that night,” wrote one TripAdvisor user. “A selectively memorable evening,” another fake reviewer penned on the restaurant’s page.
“Never I had such a non sweaty experience and unforgettable memory of a dining experience,” a third user wrote, referring to Roberts’s comments of Prince Andrew as being “sweaty” in a nightclub before their alleged intimacy. The prince had told the BBC interviewer that he knew the liaison didn’t happen because at the time he had a medical condition that prevented perspiration.
READ MORE: Prince Andrew Bombs in BBC Interview, Raising More Questions (1)
Even Britain’s notorious tabloid newspapers took a dig at the sweaty defense. The Sun on Sunday’s headline was “No Sweat.. I Was at Pizza Express,” while the rival Sunday Mirror’s riposte was “No Sweat.. and No Regret.”
TripAdvisor wiped more than 50 reviews from the eatery’s page around noon on Sunday and temporarily suspended new submissions for the Woking branch.
“The recent media attention caused a spike of spoof review submissions that did not meet our guidelines -- which must describe a first-hand experience, and have taken the decision to temporarily suspend hosting new reviews on the restaurant’s TripAdvisor listing page,” a spokeswoman for the travel website said in an email statement.
However one enterprising satirist subsequently got around the ban by posting a phony report about a restaurant near the royal residence of Windsor Castle that offered “Pizza fit for a Prince!”
The debt-laden pizza chain, which China’s Hony Capital acquired in a 900 million-pound ($1.2 billion) leveraged buyout five years ago, knew within minutes of Saturday’s interview -- widely seen as a PR disaster -- that a barrage of publicity was coming its way. The company’s social media team wrote on Twitter that “9:00 pm - Switch off computer 10:00 pm - 120 messages on work WhatsApp group telling you to check Twitter now.”
Prince Andrew’s interview has the potential to become the royal family’s biggest PR disaster since its bungled handling of events following the death of Princess Diana in 1997. RoyalCentral.co.uk Editor-in-Chief Charlie Proctor described it as an order of magnitude worse than a “train wreck,” instead considering it as “nuclear explosion level bad.”
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