Donald Trump's misogyny doesn't sleep: Tweeting sexist smears at 3 a.m. is super presidential

After fat-shaming Alicia Machado, Trump moves on to slut-shaming her, with an assist from Newt Gingrich

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published September 30, 2016 3:48PM (EDT)

Alicia Machado   (AP/John Salangsang)
Alicia Machado (AP/John Salangsang)

If Donald Trump is really as rich as he claims to be, why hasn't his team hired a few people to keep an eye on him 24/7 and wrestle his phone away from him when he's about to go on a tweet rant? It seems like it'd be a good investment. Because his middle-of-the-night frothing about sex tapes does not make him look super presidential.

During Monday evening's debate, Hillary Clinton pushed all of Trump's buttons when, toward the end of the conversation, she mentioned former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, who reigned when Trump was an owner of the pageant. "One of the worst things he said was about a woman in a beauty contest," Clinton told the crowd. "He loves beauty contests, supporting them and hanging around them. And he called this woman Miss Piggy. Then he called her Miss Housekeeping because she was Latina. Donald, she has a name. Her name is Alicia Machado and she has become a U.S. citizen and you can bet she's going to vote this November."

Machado has in recent weeks been an outspoken Clinton supporter, reigniting the controversy that surrounded her 20 years ago when she gained weight during her time as Miss Universe. Back then Trump explained to the world that "When you win a beauty pageant . . . you really have an obligation to stay in a perfect physical state."

Machado, who says that Trump called her "Miss Piggy," was put on a diet — even as she went public with her personal struggles. In 1997, as her term was winding down, she told The Washington Post that when she was crowned, "I was anorexic and bulimic, but almost all of us are. By the time I won, I was actually recovering. But the year leading to it, I didn't eat at all. And whatever I ate, I threw up. I weighed 116 pounds when I won. I was skeletal." In May, she told The New York Times, "I was sick — anorexia and bulimia for five years."

Yet Machado's admitted history of eating disorders seems not to have registered with Trump — or his outspoken supporters. On "Fox and Friends" on Tuesday, Trump called in to say that Machado "was the worst [Miss Universe] we ever had. The worst. The absolute worst. She was impossible. . . . She was the winner and, you know, she gained a massive amount of weight and it was a real problem."

Newt Gingrich also defended Trump's narrative, saying this week, "You’re not supposed to gain 60 pounds during the year that you’re Miss Universe." And a Trump talking-points memo that circulated on Wednesday claimed that "Hillary Clinton bullied and smeared women like Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinsky."

What's more ironic, Gingrich judging someone's weight or Trump accusing anybody of "smearing" a woman?

Campaigning in New Hampshire Thursday, Trump insisted that "I don’t think I took the bait. You know every online poll had me winning the debate." But by the early morning hours of Friday, he was behaving rather . . . baited. In a true to form storm of incoherence, the man who says he has a "winning temperament" was tweeting these gems:

Truly, Trump has now achieved his own platonic ideal of a Trump tweetstorm. There's the "crooked Hillary" reference. The insane conspiracy theory. And for the big flourish, there's some slut shaming! Trump, who earlier this week was addressing a group of evangelical Christians and is now recommending people "check out sex tape," appears to be referring to Machado's 2005 appearance on a Spanish-language reality show called "La Granja" ("The Farm"). Though she was engaged to another man at the time, at one point cameras caught her cavorting — clothed and under the covers — with a fellow cast member. Sure, you could technically call it a "sex tape," but it was tame enough for television. Consenting adults are allowed to have sex and it doesn't make them "disgusting."

Machado was also accused in 1998 of driving the getaway car after her boyfriend was involved in a shooting. The judge in the case later claimed she had threatened him. She was not arrested or charged. On Anderson Cooper's CNN show this week, Machado addressed her history and said, "He can say whatever he wants to say. I don’t care. You know, I have my past. Of course, everybody has a past. I’m not a saint girl. But that is not the point now."

Funny how quickly Trump's commitment to not "bully" women evaporates when they directly challenge him on his past crappy behavior toward them. Bonus hilarity: Let it not be forgotten that lately Trump is allegedly being advised by Roger Ailes — a guy who just settled a sexual harassment suit.

So guess what? Getting in bed with someone on a reality show or having a resolved legal issue in the past does not change anything. No one was setting up Machado as "paragon of virtue." When you're called upon as, say, a future leader of a country to account for your behavior, you don't blatantly try to distract the issue by bringing up a woman's sexual past. It's a completely unhinged approach. It does, however, make it clear that Donald Trump's behavior toward women is just as revolting now as it was two decades ago.

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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Alicia Machado Donald Trump Elections 2016 Hillary Clinton