It's been nearly 24 hours since Donald Trump declined to admonish a man who ranted about Muslims at his Rochester, N.H., town hall meeting. On cable news, many of those hours have been given over to discussions of what Trump meant or how other Republicans (like John McCain) have handled similar moments. Some of the most dramatic moments played out on CNN, where Anderson Cooper got into a rare passport-measuring contest with former Trump Productions president Andy Dean.
"He said we're going to be looking at that, we're going to be looking at the Muslims in America," Cooper said.
"That's not accurate at all," Dean said. "He said we're going to be looking at the potential training camps."
"Andy, I've been overseas more than you have in your whole little life," Cooper said.
The conversation deteriorated from there. Not for the first time, a national slapfight has broken out over what Trump said, and the slapfighters cannot agree what it was. "Watch Trump's appalling response as a supporter calls to 'get rid' of all Muslims," wrote Vox's Max Fisher. "Trump Under Fire for How He Handles Man Who Says Muslims Are ‘Problem,'" wrote The Blaze's Oliver Darcy.
The truth is closer to Darcy's take -- and the controversy demonstrates, for the umpteenth time, why conservatives trust people like Trump more than they trust the press.
If you've forgotten what happened in New Hampshire, here's the transcript.
Q: We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one.
Q: You know he’s not even an American.
A: We need this question. This is the first question!
Q: But anyway, we have training camps brewing where they want to kill us. That’s my question, when can we get rid of ’em?
A: We're going to be looking at a lot of different things. A lot of people are saying that, and you know, a lot of people are saying bad things are happening out there. We’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.
Trump's bluster at the end was largely interpreted as a failure to shut down the questioner. Hope Hicks, Trump's spokeswoman, clarified that he was not taking the question on face value. He did not hear the man say that "Muslims" needed to be "gotten rid of." He thought that was being said about Islamic State training camps.
"I think that’s how Mr. Trump interpreted it," she said. "It was: Are there camps in the United States? I don't know, we’re looking into it. It’s a very blanket response. The questioner doesn’t specify whether he’s talking about domestic or foreign training camps. I don’t think he has a fundamental knowledge of the training camps that exist here in the United States."
What if the man had specifically asked about expelling Muslims from the country?
"I think he would have just said, 'next question,'" said Hicks.
In real time, though, Trump was lambasted for not telling the questioner -- whatever his question -- to buzz off. He hasn't gotten the same brushback from conservatives. That's because they're used to this, used to hearing from an oddball constituent, used to seeing tracker video record their nod or polite non-answer.
Thursday in Greenville, S.C., at a press conference between events at the Heritage Action candidate forum, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum simply refused to indulge questions about Trump's answer.
"You know what?" Santorum snapped. "People are entitled to their opinions. We have a 1st Amendment for a reason."
Reporters kept pushing, asking if Santorum would at least agree that Muslims were offended by Trump, or say that Obama is a Christian.
"The president says he's a Christian," said Santorum, running out of patience. "Look, ladies and gentlemen -- I'm not playing this game. The president doesn't need me to defend him. He's got you doing that very well. So cut it out."