Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump had gone deeper with his attacks on a former beauty queen Alicia Machado on Friday, calling her “disgusting” as he refused to back away from an issue that threatens to damage his already weak standing among women and Hispanics.
Trump was quickly and sharply rebuked by his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, and by Machado, a Venezuelan-born former Miss Universe who was criticized by Trump for gaining weight after she won the crown in 1996. Clinton called the Republican candidate “unhinged.”
Clinton had raised Trump’s treatment of Machado during the two candidates’ first debate on Monday night as an example of how he views women. Clinton said Trump, the former owner of the Miss Universe pageants, had called Machado “Miss Piggy” and also “Miss Housekeeping” because she was a Latina.
Trump did not apologize then and in a television interview the following day he strongly criticized Machado over her post-pageant weight gain. With less than six weeks to go until the Nov. 8 election, Trump has refused to let the issue fade and he went on a pre-dawn tirade on Twitter on Friday.
“Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?” Trump said.
Offering no proof of his claims, he said the Clinton campaign was unaware of the beauty queen’s past and was “duped” by her. His attack came as he struggled to rebound from what was widely viewed as a loss to Clinton in Monday’s debate.
Machado denounced the accusations as “cheap lies” from a man intent on defaming her, posting her response in Spanish on Instagram next to a photo of herself draped in the U.S. flag.
“By way of his hate campaign, the Republican candidate insists on discrediting and demoralizing a woman, which is clearly one of his most frightening characteristics,” she wrote.
Clinton rebuked Trump in her own Twitter posts, saying “This is…unhinged, even for Trump.”
“What kind of man stays up all night to smear a woman with lies and conspiracy theories?” Clinton wrote, praising Machado for standing up to Trump.
Machado, who is now a U.S. citizen, has appeared on major television and cable networks and has given numerous interviews this week in which she said she was humiliated by Trump.