Presidential hopeful Donald Trump, phoning in to CNN’s State of the Union Sunday, insisted he “cherishes” women and did not intend to suggest on Friday that Fox TV’s debate moderator Megyn Kelly was menstruating during last Thursday’s big event.

Trump’s latest media dust storm began Friday night during a phone interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, when he blithely said, in describing Kelly’s perceived anger, that she had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”

Some viewers, including Jeb Bush (“Do we want to insult 53% of all voters?”) and conservative commentator Erick Erickson, who disinvited Trump from a RedState gathering Saturday, interpreted Trump’s comment as a reference to menstruation. But Trump told CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday that “only a deviant would say that.” Trump insisted he was going to follow up the “blood coming out of eyes” comment with “blood coming from the nose or ears” to indicate anger, but then wanted to change subject and said just said “wherever.”

(For the record: I watched the Lemon interview Friday night and interpreted the comment in exactly the way Trump now describes).

“I cherish women,” Trump told Tapper. “I want to help women, I want to do things for women that no other candidate will be able to do.”

Regarding the blood comment, he pointed out that he made a similar comment about Chris Wallace, and dismissed the “wherever” line merely as wanting “to change the subject. I didn’t even finish the thought. I said nothing wrong whatsoever. Only a deviant would say that I said what they were referring to.”

Republican rival Carly Fiorina, appearing on CNN Sunday after Trump’s phone-in, told an obviously uncomfortable Tapper (“I can’t believe I’m even saying this,” struggled Tapper as he invoked Kelly, “having her [awkward pause] period”) was having none of Trump’s explanations. “Women understood that comment,” she said, “and yes it is offensive.”