The former ABC producer sat down with Megyn Kelly to tell her side of the story
The producer who was says she was fired over a video of ABC News anchor Amy Robach venting her frustrations with the network for allegedly not publishing her story on Jeffrey Epstein in 2015 is speaking out.
Ashley Bianco claims she was fired from CBS earlier this week after her former employer at ABC informed the network that she was allegedly behind the leaked hot-mic moment. On Friday, she broke her silence on the scandal to Megyn Kelly, denying she had anything to do with leaking the tape in an emotional interview.
“Did you leak the tape?” asked Kelly, 48.
“I did not,” said Bianco, 25.
On Tuesday, a right-wing activist group, Project Veritas, leaked the controversial hot-mic video online, showing Robach candidly discussing an interview she conducted with Virginia Giuffre, one of the women who accused the late Epstein and Prince Andrew of sexual misconduct.
“Did you make a clip of the moment?” Kelly asked Bianco.
“I did, but I saved it in the internal system,” replied Bianco, a crash producer at the time. “I had seen what she was saying and I went to my manager and said, ‘Do you see what she’s saying? Does she know that she’s on a hot mic?’ The assistant said that Amy knew she was on a mic and that she knew she was being broadcasted to all the affiliates.”
After Kelly clarified that Robach was heard saying these comments while she was off the air but doing taped promos, she asked Bianco what she did next.
“I essentially marked it in the system,” Bianco said. “It never left the system. We do it all the time. Everyone in the office was freaked out by what she was saying and everyone was watching it.”
Kelly, then, asked her why she decided to clip it.
“To watch it back later,” Bianco responded. “You know, I did it just for office gossip. … We do it all the time. I clip off moments all the time. I put together funny anchor reels of them off camera doing funny stuff to use later on the show.”
But Bianco said she had no intention of embarrassing Robach or ABC. In fact, she said didn’t even think about it after that day.
“I didn’t touch it after that,” Bianco said. “It stayed in the system. I hadn’t even heard of Project Veritas until this.”
After moving to CBS, Bianco admitted she was “shocked” to see the leaked footage, but “didn’t think anything of it.” But four days after starting her new job, Bianco said she was fired.
“I begged, I pleaded, I didn’t know what I had done wrong,” she tearfully said. “I wasn’t even given the professional courtesy to defend myself. I didn’t know what I had been accused of. It was humiliating. It was devastating.”
Bianco, who denied ever speaking to James O’Keefe or anyone involved with Project Veritas, said she’s devastated over what has transpired but maintains her innocence.
“It wasn’t me,” she told Kelly. “I’m not the whistleblower. I’m sorry to ABC, but the leaker is still inside. I never did any of that. I may have accessed it, but I never leaked it. I never showed it to anyone. I didn’t talk about the situation outside the company. “
And while she maintains her innocence, Bianco said she does regret clipping it in the first place.
“Had I known, I would’ve never clipped it,” she said. “I want my career back. I want people to know I didn’t do it. That’s all I want.”
Reps for ABC did not immediately return PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Kelly announced the interview — her first since leaving NBC News in late 2018 — on Instagram on Friday.
“Launching my Instagram with an exclusive interview of the woman just fired after the leak of a hot mic moment by ABC’s @ajrobach,” Kelly wrote.” But did ABC News target the right person?”
In the leaked video, Robach appeared to claim that the network refused to air her story due to pressure from Buckingham Palace.
“I’ve had the story for three years. I’ve had this interview with Virginia Roberts. We would not put it on the air,” she said in the video. “First of all, I was told, ‘Who’s Jeffrey Epstein? No one knows who that is. This is a stupid story.’ Then the Palace found out that we had her whole allegations about Prince Andrew and threatened us a million different ways.”
Robach implied that ABC was worried that their relationship with the royal family would be tarnished by the story and that they would not be given important interview opportunities with Prince William and Kate Middleton in the future.
“We were so afraid we wouldn’t be able to interview Kate and Will … that also quashed the story,” she said.
Both ABC and Robach released statements to PEOPLE also denying the claim.
“As a journalist, as the Epstein story continued to unfold last summer, I was caught in a private moment of frustration,” Robach, 46, said in a statement. “I was upset that an important interview I had conducted with Virginia Roberts [Giuffre] didn’t air because we could not obtain sufficient corroborating evidence to meet ABC’s editorial standards about her allegations.”
“My comments about Prince Andrew and her allegation that she had seen Bill Clinton on Epstein’s private island were in reference to what Virginia Roberts [Giuffre] said in that interview in 2015,” she added. “I was referencing her allegations — not what ABC News had verified through our reporting. The interview itself, while I was disappointed it didn’t air, didn’t meet our standards. In the years since no one ever told me or the team to stop reporting on Jeffrey Epstein, and we have continued to aggressively pursue this important story.”
ABC reiterated that Robach’s reporting had not met its standards.
“At the time, not all of our reporting met our standards to air, but we have never stopped investigating the story,” ABC said in a statement. “Ever since we’ve had a team on this investigation and substantial resources dedicated to it. That work has led to a two-hour documentary and 6-part podcast that will air in the new year.”
When reached by PEOPLE, a Buckingham Palace spokesperson said this is a matter for ABC. The Palace has previously denied that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Giuffre.
In 2017, Giuffre went to Miami Herald with her story, speaking out about the abuse she said she suffered at the hands of Epstein and his friend Ghislaine Maxwell. (Maxwell denied the allegations.) The Herald also interviewed fellow Epstein survivors Courtney Wild, Michelle Licata and Jena-Lisa Jones.
The result was a bombshell three-part investigation published last year. It led to Epstein’s arrest on July 6 and the resignation of several government officials.
According to a federal indictment unsealed two days after his arrest and obtained by PEOPLE, Epstein “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes.”
The convicted sex offender killed himself in prison in August while awaiting trial, though many have come to claim his death was not a suicide.
Last week, Dr. Michael Baden, New York City’s former chief medical examiner, told Fox & Friends that the evidence of Epstein’s death was more comparable to homicidal strangulation rather than a suicidal hanging.
“Those three fractures are extremely unusual in suicidal hangings and could occur much more commonly in homicidal strangulation,” he said on the show on Oct. 30.
He added: “I’ve not seen in 50 years where that occurred in a suicidal hanging case.”
Dr. Barbara Sampson, the current chief medical examiner of New York City who ruled Epstein’s death to be suicide, strongly disputed the findings by Dr. Baden.