Trump won’t let go of Miss Uni­verse flap

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Josh Le­d­er­man and Steve Peo­ples Le­d­er­man re­ported from Wash­ing­ton. As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers Jill Colvin in Jersey City, New Jersey, Cather­ine Lucey in Fort Pierce, Florida, and Si­gal Rat­ner-Arias in New York con­trib­uted to this re­port.

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. » Plung­ing deeper into cam­paign con­tro­versy, Don­ald Trump pub­licly shamed a former beauty queen on Fri­day for her “dis­gust­ing” sex­ual past and then — in one of pres­i­den­tial his­tory’s more bizarre mo­ments — en­cour­aged Amer­i­cans to watch a “sex tape” he said would sup­port his case.

Even many of Trump’s sup­port­ers shook their heads at his lat­est out­burst, which could fur­ther hurt him among the na­tion’s women, many of them al­ready skep­ti­cal, whose votes he’ll badly need to win elec­tion.

“Did Crooked Hil­lary help dis­gust­ing (check out sex tape and past) Ali­cia M be­come a U.S. cit­i­zen so she could use her in the de­bate?” read a mis­sive from Trump posted on Twit­ter at 5:30 a.m. That re­ferred to 1996 Miss Uni­verse win­ner Ali­cia Machado, a Venezuela-born woman whose weight gain he has said cre­ated ter­ri­ble prob­lems for the pageant he formerly owned.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, Trump’s pre-dawn tweet-storm ric­o­cheted across the cam­paign trail.

Trump’s cam­paign ac­cused the me­dia and Hil­lary Clin­ton of col­lud­ing to set him up for fresh con­dem­na­tion, to which Clin­ton re­torted, “His lat­est twit­ter melt­down is un­hinged, even for him.”

Machado took to Face­book to say his tweets were part of a pat­tern of “de­mor­al­iz­ing women,” call­ing them “cheap lies with bad in­ten­tions.” Planned Par­ent­hood said it showed that Trump’s “misog­yny knows no bounds.” And Clin­ton said they showed anew why some­one with Trump’s tem­per­a­ment “should not be any­where near the nu­clear codes.”

With less than 40 days left in the elec­tion, Trump’s broad­side threw his cam­paign into a fresh round of sec­ond-guess­ing the can­di­date’s in­stincts and con­fu­sion about what to do next. To be­liev­ers in tra­di­tional po­lit­i­cal norms, the tirade seemed like the op­po­site of what was needed to win over fe­males, His­pan­ics and young Amer­i­cans whose sup­port could well de­ter­mine the elec­tion.

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.

Charges of ly­ing flew back and forth.

What kind of a man, she asked, “stays up all night to smear a woman with lies and con­spir­acy the­o­ries?”

He im­plored vot­ers not to be­lieve news sto­ries about his cam­paign cit­ing anony­mous sources. “There are no sources, they are just made up lies!” he tweeted.

Even Trump’s most vo­cal al­lies seemed at a loss of words.

“He’s be­ing Trump. I don’t have any com­ment be­yond that,” said former House Speaker Newt Gin­grich, a top sup­porter. Gen­er­ally chatty and oc­ca­sion­ally crit­i­cal of Trump, Gin­grich said tersely that Trump some­times does “strange things,” but that Clin­ton lies. “I’ll let you de­cide which is worse for Amer­ica.”

But Trump’s in­ner cir­cle fol­lowed his lead by re­fus­ing to con­cede any mis­steps. Trump re­turned with a new tweet in­vok­ing Clin­ton’s fa­mous ad from her 2008 cam­paign por­tray­ing her as the best can­di­date to pick up an ur­gent call at the White House at 3 a.m.

“For those few peo­ple knock­ing me for tweet­ing at three o’clock in the morn­ing, at least you know I will be there, awake, to an­swer the call!” Trump wrote.

Machado has been thrust to cen­ter stage in the cam­paign since Clin­ton noted Mon­day in the first de­bate that Trump had mocked her pub­licly for gain­ing weight af­ter she won Miss Uni­verse. 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.”

That gave Clin­ton’s cam­paign the open­ing it wanted. Her team cir­cu­lated videos fea­tur­ing Machado ac­cus­ing Trump of de­stroy­ing her self-con­fi­dence and ar­ranged for re­porters to in­ter­view her, just as many vot­ers were start­ing to cast early bal­lots. Clin­ton’s spokesman said she called Machado Fri­day to thank her for her courage.

Said Trump spokes­woman Jes­sica Ditto: “This is the sin­gle big­gest co­or­di­nated me­dia at­tack in his­tory.”

His Twit­ter taunts 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’s cam­paign has high­lighted Machado’s sta­tus as a new U.S. cit­i­zen and her plans to cast her first vote for the former sec­re­tary of state. But spokes­woman Jen­nifer Palmieri said Clin­ton did not help Machado be­come a cit­i­zen.

For Repub­li­cans, the out­burst seemed to fore­close any pos­si­bil­ity that Trump, in the cam­paign’s fi­nal weeks, might rein­vent him­self as some­one with the dis­ci­pline and re­straint that many vot­ers want in their com­man­der in chief. Trump’s al­lies have im­plored him to stick to at­tacks on Clin­ton’s fam­ily foun­da­tion, her emails or her long his­tory as a po­lit­i­cal in­sider, cri­tiques that fall fur­ther out of view when­ever he sparks a new con­tro­versy.

In an­other risky move, Trump warned vot­ers this week that a Clin­ton vic­tory would bring former Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton’s sex scan­dal back to the White House. The fresh re­hash of the 1990s Mon­ica Lewisnky scan­dal came de­spite Trump’s in­sis­tence that he’s been coura­geously re­strained in not bring­ing it up.

LUIS ALONSO LUGO, FILE — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

In this June 15 photo, former Miss Uni­verse Ali­cia Machado speaks dur­ing a news con­fer­ence at a Latino restau­rant in Ar­ling­ton, Va., to crit­i­cize Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump.

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