Days ahead of his first state visit to the United Kingdom, debate is raging in both the U.S. and Britain over President Donald Trump’s use of the word “nasty” in relation to America’s most famous royal, Meghan Markle.
The president, who is prone to creating controversies overseas, employed the descriptor during a pre-trip Oval Office interview Friday with the British tabloid The Sun, after a reporter invoked comments Markle made three years ago that were critical of then-candidate Trump’s White House run.
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Markle, whose royal title is the Duchess of Sussex, is on maternity leave with her three-week-old son, Archie, and will not join other members of the royal family in meeting with the president.
“She can’t make it because she’s got maternity leave. Are you sorry not to see her? Because she wasn’t so nice about you during the campaign. I don’t know if you saw that,” the Sun asked Trump.
“I didn’t know that, no. I didn’t know that. No, I hope she’s OK. I did not know that, no,” Trump replied.
“She said she’d move to Canada if you got elected. It turned out she moved to Britain,” the Sun continued.
“A lot of people moving here, so what can I say? No, I didn’t know that she was nasty,” Trump said.
The Sun also asked the president whether it was “good having an American princess,” and if Markle’s May 2018 marriage to Prince Harry of Wales, now the Duke of Sussex, strengthened the ties between the U.S. and the UK.
“I think it’s nice. I think it’s nice, and I’m sure she will do excellently,” Trump said. “She will be very good. She will be very good. I hope she does.”
Markle in 2016 accused Trump of being “divisive” and “misogynistic” during an appearance on Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.”
Amid a torrent of disapproving social media posts and a flurry of weekend news reports promulgating the president’s “nasty” remark about the 37-year-old duchess, the “Official Trump War Room” Twitter account — which claims to be managed by Trump’s re-election campaign — sought to exercise some damage control.
“Fake News CNN is at it again, falsely claiming President Trump called Meghan Markle ‘nasty,’” the account tweeted Saturday morning, along with a 44-second audio clip of the president’s interview with the Sun. “Here is what he actually said. Listen for yourself!”
That message was subsequently mocked online as self-defeating and for amplifying the president’s insult, which he has previously deployed to attack female political rivals.
Human Events, a relaunched outlet run by Breitbart alumni, also suggested Trump was referring to Markle’s comments as nasty, and not the duchess herself.
A White House official said Trump did not say that Markle was nasty, and that he was responding to the Sun reporter reading her critiques of the president.
On Saturday evening, the president retweeted Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody, who called it “a false story.”
Trump has a history of using the word “nasty” to describe women: He called 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton “such a nasty woman” at an October debate one month before the election. In April, he said that 2020 White House hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris had “a little bit of a nasty wit,” and described the California Democrat’s questioning of Attorney General William Barr at a congressional hearing last month as “probably very nasty.”
Trump also applied the sobriquet to San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz after she criticized the president’s response to Hurricane Maria.
Trump’s assessment of Markle was just one of several diplomatic faux pas by the president in the past week that have done little to bolster the “Special Relationship” before he journeys across the Atlantic to arrive in London on Monday.
In the same interview with the Sun, Trump expressed his support for former U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to become Britain’s next prime minister, remarking that the ex-London mayor is “a very good guy, a very talented person” who “would do a very good job” replacing outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party.
Trump also criticized May, who is set to resign on June 7, for her Brexit negotiations with the European Union, remarking that her government allowed the international organization “to have all the cards, and it is very hard to play well when one side has all the advantage.”
Trump is scheduled to participate next week in a round of talks with May in 10 Downing Street, as well as attend a state banquet hosted by Queen Elizabeth II. The first time the president came face-to-face with the 93-year-old monarch in July 2018, he was widely rebuked online for walking ahead of her at Windsor Castle as they inspected her honor guard, a breach of royal protocol.
A month later, Trump told attendees at a Pennsylvania rally that the queen kept him waiting for their meeting. However, footage of their encounter broadcast live across Britain showed the queen waiting for the president for 12 minutes and looking at her watch.