NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump tried to shame a former beauty pageant winner Friday for her sexual history and encouraged presidential voters to check out what he called her “sex tape,” in an early-morning tweet-storm that dragged him further away from his campaign’s efforts to broaden his appeal to women.
A day after he injected former President Bill Clinton’s infidelities into the campaign, Trump accused Hillary Clinton’s campaign of helping 1996 Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado get U.S. citizenship, but offered no proof. He said Machado had a “terrible” past that a “duped” Clinton had overlooked before holding her up “as an angel” in the first presidential debate.
Machado, the Venezuela-born actress, has been center stage in the campaign since Clinton noted in Monday’s debate that Trump had mocked her publicly for gaining weight after she won Miss Universe, a pageant then owned by the businessman. If that was a trap laid by Clinton, the irrepressible Trump dug himself deeper the next day by saying Machado’s “massive” weight gain had been “a real problem.”
Trump’s latest taunt appeared to refer to footage from a Spanish reality show in 2005 in which Machado was a contestant and appeared on camera in bed with a male contestant. The images are grainy and do not include nudity, though Machado later acknowledged in the Hispanic media that she was having sex in the video.
Clinton responded with a tweet-storm of her own, accusing Trump of contempt for women.
She tied his broadside against Machado to his previous attacks on Rosie O’Donnell and Kim Kardashian about their looks.
Clinton’s campaign has released videos featuring Machado and has arranged for reporters to interview her in an effort to use Trump’s comments against him just as early voting in critical states gets underway.
Trump’s outburst was a new reminder of how he has seemed unable to restrain himself from veering into unhelpful territory, even with the election less than 40 days away. His allies have implored him to stick to attacks on Clinton over her family foundation, her emails or her long history as a political insider, critiques that fall further out of view whenever Trump sparks a new controversy.
Shaming Machado over intimate details from her past could be particularly risky as Trump tries to win over more female voters, many of whom are turned away by such personal attacks. It also risks calling further attention to the thrice-married Trump’s own history with women.
On Friday, Trump said Clinton had been “set up by a con” in holding up Machado “as an ‘angel.'” He suggested Clinton had helped her gain citizenship.
Clinton’s campaign has highlighted Machado’s status as a new American and her plans to cast her first vote for Clinton. But Clinton spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri said Clinton did not help Machado get U.S. citizenship.
The flurry on Twitter began shortly after 3 a.m. on the East Coast when Trump complained about stories about his campaign based on anonymous sources and told his supporters not to believe them.
Trump has repeatedly gotten himself in trouble with his late-night and early-morning tweets, which appear to be written by the candidate himself. Trump has, at various points during his campaign, toned down the content, but rarely for long.
His latest broadside against Machado adds fuel to a burgeoning debate in America about putting down women over the perception of promiscuity. Women’s advocates have said the phenomenon, which takes place largely online, holds women to a different standard because men are often praised for having multiple partners.
A day earlier, Trump warned voters that a Hillary Clinton victory would bring her husband’s sex scandal back to the White House. It was Trump’s latest effort to bounce back from Monday’s debate performance, which was widely panned as ineffective.
“The American people have had it with years and decades of Clinton corruption and scandal. Corruption and scandal,” Trump said Thursday. “An impeachment for lying. An impeachment for lying. Remember that? Impeach.”
The fresh rehash of the 1990s Monica Lewinsky scandal came despite Trump’s insistence that he’s been showing impressive restraint by not bringing it up. Trump has said he declined to mention it during the debate because Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, was in the room.
Lederman reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Jill Colvin in New Jersey and Catherine Lucey in Vero Beach, Florida, contributed to this report.