New York Times White House correspondent Katie Rogers latched on to a minor Trump quote controversy and elevated it to Orwellian importance in Thursday’s edition: Did Trump call former actress Meghan Markle, now wife to Prince Harry and called the Duchess of Sussex, “nasty?”
The online edition upped the significance of the silly spat into a battle over ultimate truth: “An Orwellian Tale? Trump Denies, Then Confirms, ‘Nasty’ Comments About Meghan Markle.” Rogers squeezed the maximum snideness out of the snit:
By the time he left London on Wednesday, President Trump somehow ended his state visit there a full 360 degrees from where he started. Which was referring to the Duchess of Sussex, the American-born Meghan Markle, as “nasty.”
Reading the full exchange makes one think Trump meant to say she had been “nasty” to him, not necessarily a nasty person. But Rogers kept playing the silly word games (click “expand,” emphasis mine):
Assessing the perceived degree of nastiness of the duchess in an interview before he left the United States kick-started an Orwellian saga -- one that the president single-handedly created, forcefully denied and then revived again just before jetting off for the next leg of his European tour.
The fracas began with an interview with the British tabloid The Sun last weekend, when Mr. Trump was recorded saying that he was not aware that the duchess had made “nasty” comments about him during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“What can I say?” Mr. Trump said. “I didn’t know that she was nasty.”
It was not the way previous American presidents have let the British know they were coming. The reaction to a sitting president commenting on the perceived nastiness of a member of Queen Elizabeth’s family -- who put on a state dinner at Buckingham Palace, to impress and placate him -- was reliably parsed along tribal lines.
Trump supporters agreed with the president, who initially said that he had not made such a comment at all. The Trump campaign’s “war room” Twitter account took CNN to task for “falsely claiming” that Mr. Trump had called Ms. Markle nasty -- and then posted audio that captured the president saying that Ms. Markle had, in fact, been nasty.
Then Rogers pounced on the Orwell reference (click “expand,” emphasis mine)::
In the opposite corner, the president’s critics -- armed with audio from The Sun interview -- began circulating a line in the dystopian novel “1984,” written by George Orwell: “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”
The passage, taken from a book imagining what could happen when free thought is silenced, has become a refrain of sorts, used each time the president denies comments of his caught on camera or audio. A prime example: Mr. Trump said he never called Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, “Tim Apple,” even though there was video of the president doing just that.
At other times, Mr. Trump has been more direct in telling his supporters to ignore the news.
In a television interview broadcast on Wednesday in Britain, Mr. Trump finally had an outlet for damage control over his duchess comments. Piers Morgan, a Trump-friendly personality, asked the president to explain the “nasty” confusion.
Mr. Trump responded by confirming what he had denied for days: The duchess was nasty about him, Mr. Trump said emphatically. But on Mr. Trump’s mysterious internal spectrum of assessing female nastiness, the duchess’s comments about him, while nasty, did not seem to amount to a terminal “nasty woman” sort of condition, one he had previously assigned to Hillary Clinton.
Rogers would not let Orwell go:
Mr. Trump’s comments revealed another truth about his presidency: Bad news about him is fake until he says otherwise. Those familiar with Orwell’s writings would point out a warning: Even trivial dishonesty has a way of compounding. As Mr. Woloch put it: “It’s not about the one duplicity. It’s about the pattern.”
By contrast, Bill Clinton’s infamous definition of the word “is” before a grand jury (“It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is” was a genuine Orwellian-style moment during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Yet it was apparently (according to nytimes.com) never referred to as Orwellian in a news story (acerbic columnist Maureen Dowd did make the link in a column titled “The Wizard of Is”).