Friends rally round Prince Harry as naked photos hit London streets
A souvenir shop displays a facemask of Prince Harry in London on Friday. The royal is in the middle of a firestorm over naked pictures that have now become the centre of a debate over freedom of the press. (Reuters)
Slowly but surely, Prince Harry's troops are rallying.
A friend of the royal, who was with him during the now infamous Las Vegas strip billiards party last week, has come out to attack the girl who sold her cellphone pictures of Harry sans shorts. His defence comes just as one British newspaper breaks with protocol to publish the now famous naked Harry photos, and word comes that more photos are being shopped around.
Arthur Landon, one of the Prince's millionaire buddies and Vegas party-mate, admitted the whole affair put a "dampener" on the post-Olympics holiday.
"I obviously think it is really despicable that someone would accept Prince Harry's hospitality and then take these pictures," he told the Daily Mail. "Some people have been hinting that it was one of his friends who took the pictures. But that is absolutely not true."
According to the Telegraph, postings on Landon's Facebook page reveal that the group spent a week on Sir Richard Branson's private island of Necker in the British Virgin Islands, celebrating the birthday of Branson's son Sam.
It was clearly party time 20-somethings. Landon's luggage featured a gas mask and a 'Captain Britannia" costume. Another picture shows a fellow passed out in the sand, under a caption that reads: "The perfect start." The face is obscured, but the shorts were identical to what Harry was wearing in Las Vegas.
What he wasn't wearing in Vegas became an internet sensation and word is more pictures from the strip billiards game may emerge.
Max Clifford, one of the highest profile publicists in the UK, told the BBC on Friday that he was approached by two American women who claimed to be among the 15 or so that were partying with the prince and wanted to sell their photos. Clifford said he refused to represent them. The photos that appeared on TMZ.com were purchased for about $16,000 from the Splash News agency.
The focus of the whole episode has shifted dramatically in the last few days, from a debate about Harry's behaviour to a press freedom issue.
For four days, after the photos were splashed across the internet in the rest of the world, Britain's newspapers felt handcuffed by the country's privacy code and didn't print the pictures. The Sun tabloid in London finally broke ranks and published the pictures in their Friday edition (above) and their website.
The UK's Press Complaints Commission received more than 850 complaints aon Friday bout the Sun's front-page coverage, but said they had all come from the public, not Buckingham Palace or from Prince Harry.
A former Sun editor, Kelvin MacKenzie, backed the paper in thumbing their nose at the code.
"If Prince Harry with no clothes on in a Las Vegas hotel room surrounded by one naked woman and a load of other people he has just met in a drinking-stripping game is not a story then it is hard to know what is," he told the BBC.
Former British deputy prime minister Lord Prescott vilified the paper, saying it showed "absolute utter contempt" for the law. It is an especially sensitive issue in the wake of the phone hacking scandal that exposed underhanded journalistic practices by Rupert Murdoch's News of the World and spawned the Leveson Inquiry.
"It is not about privacy," he said. "It is about money, money, money. And they know that by exclusively printing the pictures, assuming they are the only (British) paper which does, they will get everybody buying the paper to see this."
MP Louise Mensch disagreed. "Prince Harry, inviting people to his room, did not have an expectation of privacy," she told the BBC. "More to the point, you can't have a situation where our press as a bloc is so scared of the Leveson Inquiry they refuse to print things in the public interest."The Palace, which asked the PCC to remind editors about protecting privacy (Harry was, after all, on a private holiday and in a private suite), tried to keep a distance from the Sun's move.
"We have made our views on Prince Harry's privacy known," said a spokesman. "Newspapers regulate themselves, so the publication of the photographs is ultimately a decision for editors to make."
Another question emerging from all this is the role Prince Harry's protection officers, who were with him at last Friday's party. Should they have conficated cameras at the door of the suite? Or are they simply there to protect Harry from physical harm and not try intervene in his lifestyle?
One of Princess Diana's former bodyguards criticized the live-and-let-live attitude that appeared to shown by Harry's guards.“The moment you invite unknown people into your hotel room there is a question of invasion of privacy and as far as security is concerned it is potentially dangerous," Ken Warfe told the London Evening Standard.
"If one of these girls had planted drugs or had a knife rather than taken pictures then the officers would be in serious trouble. There should have been better security."
As for Harry, reports are he is keeping a low profile. He went directly to Clarence House when he returned to London, which means he would have bumped into his father Prince Charles. The Mirror newspaper says Charles advised his son to lie low. Good luck with that.