President Trump sparked a new debate in Britain this past week, after calling past comments by Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, “nasty” in an interview with the Sun tabloid.
During the 2016 election campaign, the duchess — then Meghan Markle — called Trump “misogynistic” and “divisive.” The American actress also said she might move to Canada if Trump was elected president. Instead, two years on, she married Prince Harry and became part of Britain’s royal family.
Suggesting that he had been unaware of the duchess’s 2016 remarks ahead of preparations for his upcoming state visit to Britain and his royal reception on Monday, Trump said in an audio recording released by the Sun: “I didn’t know that she was nasty," in response to a question that cited Markle’s earlier remarks.
Trump had previously used the word to describe his Democratic opponent during a 2016 presidential debate, calling Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” — words that later became a rallying cry for the anti-Trump movement.
But this time, Trump refrained from provoking a full-blown spat, quickly emphasizing in the same interview with the Sun that “I am sure she will do excellently” as a duchess.
On Sunday, Trump suggested that his remarks on Meghan had been taken out of context. On Twitter, he wrote: “I never called Meghan Markle “nasty.” Made up by the Fake News Media, and they got caught cold!”
In the United States, Trump’s earlier remarks were seen as part of a pattern of often-demeaning attacks on female critics, his opponents said.
But in Britain, Trump’s remarks ahead of the trip also echoed concerns voiced in the lead-up to Meghan’s wedding with Harry: that her past political activism may make things awkward for the royal family, which is not supposed to voice public political views. She started to speak out against sexism as a child and never hid her other personal convictions throughout her acting career, including thoughts on U.S. politics. As a member of the British royal family, Meghan has already strayed further into political territory than others have — for instance, by speaking out against racism, which she has personally faced in recent months.
While her past comments are a nightmare for those familiar with the ins and outs of royal protocol, the British public may have a different take. “You know, we don’t care what he thinks about us,” British lawyer and political activist Shola Mos-Shogbamimu told Sky News on Saturday. “Women are going to stand up together and speak out against the lunacy of his presidency,” she said of Trump.
The president has faced major resistance in Europe in the past, and a “Trump Baby” balloon greeted the president when he visited Britain in July during a four-day working visit.
Trump’s state visit, which begins Monday, has been repeatedly delayed. He also plans to attend ceremonies commemorating the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings while visiting Britain and France.
Meghan, who is still on maternity leave, and Trump will not meet during the visit. Harry is expected to meet with him, according to British media.
As a biracial and divorced American, Meghan’s biography has vastly differed from the life experiences that have dominated the halls of Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace. Opening up traditions and acknowledging that even royals can have opinions, her supporters said, has infused royal traditions with a more human and natural touch.
When Harry and Meghan launched their Instagram account in early April, the handle immediately broke records, reaching 1 million followers in less than 6 hours. Many of the couple’s fans are from the United States, where almost 30 million watched their wedding last year, compared with about 23 million who watched Kate Middleton wed Prince William in 2011. The birth of Harry and Meghan’s first baby, Archie, was celebrated by fans around the globe last month.