This is a perfect controversy for the Trump era in that there’s actual audio of what he said and yet the two sides still can’t agree.

Here’s how CNN and Elle magazine are framing that:


By “I didn’t know that she was nasty,” I take him to mean “I didn’t know that she had said nasty things about me.” He’s not impugning her character. On the contrary, he compliments her — a rare but not unprecedented example of Trump being gracious about a critic. Every now and then he gets smacked by someone whom he knows he can’t hit back without creating a political mess for himself. He’s never jabbed at Michelle Obama as far as I recall even though she’s jabbed at him plenty, including at the 2016 convention. I remember his criticism of Khizr Khan being notably subdued too. Sparring with a former First Lady or a Gold Star father would be a bad, bad look and he knows it, so he pulls his punches or avoids throwing them entirely. It’s what makes his recurring criticism of John McCain surprising, actually. Taking an occasional shot at a dead war hero isn’t a great look either. For some reason (probably McCain’s vote on ObamaCare repeal), Trump can’t resist in that case.

But resisting in Markle’s is an easy call. He’s having lunch with her husband next week and knows that a war of words with a member of the royal family before his visit would be a five-alarm diplomatic fiasco, which of course is why media outlets are reading his “nasty” comment uncharitably. They’re spoiling to see that fiasco play out. In reality, Markle could call him a cuck tomorrow and he’d still have to be like, “Congratulations on the new baby.” Which is kind of a bummer: If we’re going to elect a boorish populist, he should at least do a little public goofing on the bluebloods from the mother country. I don’t mind having Frank Drebin as president as long as he tackles the queen occasionally.