Britain's Prince Andrew announced Wednesday that he's stepping down from public life - the controversy over his friendship with late American financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein apparently casting too long a shadow over Queen Elizabeth's second son. In a statement issued by Buckingham Palace, Andrew said, "It has become clear to me over the last few days that the circumstances relating to my former association with Jeffrey Epstein has become a major disruption to my family's work.... Therefore, I have asked Her Majesty if I may step back from public duties for the foreseeable future...." Andrew, who's 59, denies an accusation that he had sex with a 17-year-old girl some 18 years ago, the girl an alleged sex-trafficking victim of his friend Epstein, who killed himself in a Manhattan prison in August while awaiting trial. Prince Andrew's decision to lay low follows a disastrous TV interview that aired on the BBC Saturday in which he gave a rambling explanation of his actions and showed an apparent lack of compassion for Epstein's victims. (SOUND BITE) (ENGLISH) BBC INTERVIEWER, SAYING: "But you were staying at the house of a convicted sex offender." (SOUND BITE) (ENGLISH) PRINCE ANDREW, SAYING:"It was a convenient place to stay. My judgment was probably colored by my tendency to be too honorable." Since the scandal broke, a slew of businesses have distanced themselves from organizations and charities associated with Prince Andrew. As a young man, he was one of the most popular royals, hailed by the British press for his service as a helicopter pilot during the 1982 Falklands War and earning the nickname "Randy Andy" for his courting of glamorous girlfriends. His 1986 marriage to Sarah Ferguson, with whom he has two daughters, ended in divorce a decade later but she remains one of his strongest supporters. Last week, with Andrew grabbing global headlines, she tweeted that he is "a true+real gentleman and is stoically steadfast to not only his duty but also his kindness + goodness." In his farewell statement, Prince Andrew said he is willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations.