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UK PM: Public will give prince 'benefit of the doubt'

  • Story Highlights
  • UK PM Brown: Any disciplinary issues are for the army to deal with
  • Videos at the center of row filmed by the prince himself in 2006
  • UK's Prince Harry has had to apologize for offensive behavior before
  • Some commentators urge public to take the prince's words in context
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- UK prime minister Gordon Brown said Monday that that Britain's Prince Harry made "a mistake" when he used offensive language to describe people in his military unit, according to UK media -- but that the public would give him "the benefit of the doubt."

Prince Harry apologized for videos of him making offensive comments while on military duty in 2006.

Prince Harry apologized for videos of him making offensive comments while on military duty in 2006.

The prince apologized through a spokesman Saturday after videos surfaced, in which a voice, said to be Harry's, calls a soldier a "Paki."

In another clip, the voice tells a soldier wearing a cloth on his head that he looks "like a raghead."

The British newspaper News of the World posted the videos on its Web site Saturday. It did not say how it obtained them.

Brown, speaking on UK TV in comments reported by the UK Press Association, said that he believed that the prince knew his comments were "unacceptable" but added: "I think the sincerity of his apology cannot be doubted."

Brown said: "It was a mistake, he has made the admission of that and, once he has made his apology, I think the British people are good enough to give someone who has actually been a role model for young people and has done well fighting for our country, gone into very difficult situations with bravery, I think they will give him the benefit of the doubt."

A spokesman for Prince Harry apologized in a statement released Saturday by St. James's Palace. The spokesman said the prince -- who is third in line to the British throne -- "understands how offensive this term can be, and is extremely sorry for any offense his words might cause." Video Watch video which has sparked controversy »

Brown added, in comments reported by PA, that any disciplinary issues relating to the prince's comments were a matter for the army.

The British Ministry of Defence said it was not aware of any complaints against Prince Harry and would investigate the allegations of inappropriate behavior, according to a written statement released Saturday.

"Bullying and racism are not endemic in the Armed Forces," it said.

It is not the first apology for offensive behavior by Prince Harry.

In 2005, he was photographed wearing a Nazi uniform to a party. He said he was sorry for that incident. "It was a very stupid thing to do and I've learned my lesson, simple as that really," he said in a September 2005 interview with Britain's Press Association, marking his 21st birthday. "I'd like to put it in the past now. What's done is done. I regret it."

CNN's Phil Black said: "People are now asking to what extent has he really changed."

The videos that surfaced Saturday were filmed by the prince himself during his military service in 2006, according to the News of the World Web site.

"Ahh, our little Paki friend... Ahmed," a voice says as the camera zooms in on a soldier from across the room. The video does not show Prince Harry's face.

The soldiers were waiting for their flight to Cyprus for a mission, according to the Web site.

The Royal family said the "Paki" term was a nickname for a friend in his platoon. "There is no question that Prince Harry was in any way seeking to insult his friend," the St. James's Palace statement said.

The second video was filmed after arriving in Cyprus, according to News of the World, and shows a British soldier with a cloth over his head.

A voice, which the News of the World claims to be Harry's, is heard saying, "(expletive) me, you look like a raghead."

St. James's Palace said, "Prince Harry used the term 'raghead' to mean Taliban or Iraqi insurgent."

Dickie Arbiter, a former press secretary to Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Harry's grandmother, urged people to take the prince's words in context.


"Harry is not the same man as he was three years ago," Arbiter told Britain's ITN network. "You don't think when you are shooting a video.

"It is quite common for names to be used in the military.... He's a serviceman first and foremost, but people see him as a prince first and he has to be careful of what he says."

-- CNN's Katy Byron and Per Nyberg contributed to this report.

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