Washington — President Donald Trump insisted Sunday that he never called Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex and the wife of Britain’s Prince Harry, "nasty."
The president used the adjective while discussing Meghan in a recent interview with Britain’s The Sun newspaper in the run-up to his state visit to the UK on Monday. But debate on social media since then has raged over whether his use of "nasty" referred to the duchess herself or the negative things she said about him in 2016.
Trump and his defenders have accused the news media of spreading a deliberately false narrative about him.
A look at the claim:
TRUMP: "I never called Meghan Markle ‘nasty.’ Made up by the Fake News Media, and they got caught cold!" — tweet Sunday.
THE FACTS: Trump, in fact, did use the word "nasty" to describe Meghan when asked about her comments about him during the 2016 campaign.
In audio of the interview posted on the newspaper’s website, Trump discusses the upcoming state visit, his second meeting with Queen Elizabeth II and the Trump family members who are tagging along on the trip. The reporter then asks about Meghan, who isn’t joining other royals to meet Trump and his wife, Melania, due to the recent birth of her first child, Archie, in May.
Asked if he was sorry to miss out on meeting the American-born Meghan and told that she "wasn’t so nice about you" during the campaign, Trump says: "I didn’t know that. No, I hope she’s OK. I did not know that."
When told that Meghan once said she might move to Canada if Trump was elected, Trump responds: "No, I didn’t know that she was nasty."
The former Meghan Markle supported Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, calling Trump "divisive" and "misogynistic." The former actress also said she might move to Canada. "Suits," the cable TV legal drama she starred in at the time, was filming in Toronto.
She ultimately married Prince Harry in 2018 and moved to Britain.
After the interview was released, reporters at some news organizations tweeted that Trump called Meghan "nasty," sparking debate.
The case isn’t as clear as Trump portrays it to be, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center.
Jamieson said in an email that since Trump’s interviewer is informing him about a statement that Trump says he was unaware of "one would ordinarily assume that his answer refers to that statement." But she says the answer – "was nasty" – could also refer to a person or to what the person said.
Complicating matters, Jamieson said, is Trump’s history of verbal attacks on people he views as antagonists and his sensitivity to negative statements about his election.
"As a result, difficult to know what he meant," she said.
In the Sun interview, Trump also spoke positively about Meghan when asked whether it was good for an American to be a member of the British royal family.
"I think it’s nice. I think it’s nice. I’m sure she will do excellently. She’ll be very good. She’ll be very good. I hope she does," Trump said.