Faulty mes­sen­ger foils Clinton sex smear

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

It’s about the last thing we needed this elec­tion sea­son. Sex has been brought into the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. Who started it? Well, put the blame this time squarely on Hil­lary Clinton and her new de facto run­ning mate: for­mer Miss Uni­verse Ali­cia Machado.

The Clinton cam­paign has made a big gam­ble by fea­tur­ing Ms. Machado in their lat­est neg­a­tive po­lit­i­cal ads. The spots paint her as a vic­tim of Don­ald Trump’s bul­ly­ing, but her real mo­ti­va­tion seems to be to re­claim the lime­light. Her story is in­creas­ingly hard to credit when one ex­am­ines Ms. Machado’s con­tro­ver­sial and tu­mul­tuous back­ground, where she al­legedly threat­ened a judge in her na­tive Venezuela, was in­volved in a mur­der trial, had sex on a Span­ish re­al­ity tele­vi­sion show and posed for Play­boy.

Her past ac­tiv­i­ties have now be­come the fo­cus both English and Span­ish-lan­guage me­dia cov­er­age, dis­tract­ing from the Clin­tons’ orig­i­nal goal of por­tray­ing Mr. Trump as a sex­ist, fat-sham­ing cad. The ef­fort to smear her op­po­nent might have just back­fired.

At first, the Clinton ad was ap­plauded by some of the “Never Trump” women, who shared how they re­lated to Ms. Machado on her weight is­sues and called out Mr. Trump for — ac­cord­ing to Ms. Machado — call­ing her “Miss Piggy” or “Miss House­keep­ing.” But as the me­dia in­ves­ti­gated and Ms. Machado’s back­story was re­vealed, her cred­i­bil­ity started to crum­ble.

A clearly primed Mrs. Clinton re­counted Ms. Machado’s story near the end of the first de­bate. “One of the worst things [Mr. Trump] said was about a woman in a beauty con­test. ... Don­ald, she has a name. Her name is Ali­cia Machado. And she has be­come a U.S. cit­i­zen and you can bet she is go­ing to vote this Novem­ber.”

Fol­low­ing the de­bate, Ms. Machado be­came the talk of the town, with a Clinton cam­paign ad high­light­ing her story all ready to air the next day. The Clinton cam­paign thought Ms. Machado’s story could be a golden op­por­tu­nity, yet they clearly failed to suf­fi­ciently vet their spokes­woman.

Said Trump se­nior ad­viser A.J. Del­gado, “As a fel­low Latina, and one with a Latina ac­cent just like Ms. Machado, I’m per­son­ally em­bar­rassed by her an­tics. These false al­le­ga­tions about Mr. Trump, who has a life­long proven record of el­e­vat­ing women in the work­place and be­ing a cham­pion of women, ap­pears to be a sad at­tempt to draw at­ten­tion to her­self.”

Of course, it doesn’t help Mr. Trump if the me­dia con­tinue to fo­cus on Ms. Machado and the GOP nom­i­nee has to de­fend him­self from her charges. Re­hash­ing his past deal­ings with Ms. Machado only dis­tracts from Mr. Trump’s over­ar­ch­ing theme of putting Amer­ica back on track. That’s clearly the Clin­tons’ hope, since his cen­tral mes­sage — eco­nomic growth, na­tional se­cu­rity and safe com­mu­ni­ties — clearly res­onates with many vot­ers. And while Mr. Trump is still the un­der­dog, polls say he re­mains com­pet­i­tive de­spite a hos­tile press, his medi­ocre de­bate per­for­mance and his op­po­nent’s mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar at­tack ad buys.

The Clin­tons are past mas­ters at putting their op­po­nents on the de­fen­sive, but en­list­ing Ms. Machado for their cause could open up a can of worms for Mrs. Clinton. As he him­self noted Mon­day night, Mr. Trump has re­strained him­self when it comes to talk­ing about Bill Clinton’s treat­ment of women in the past.

Some in the GOP are ad­vis­ing Mr. Trump not to go af­ter Mrs. Clinton on her hus­band’s in­fi­deli­ties and her own role in cov­er­ing up his al­leged sex­ual pre­da­tions to­ward women. The Clinton cam­paign has stated that she will be ready to re­spond to Mr. Trump if he brings up her hus­band.

But it’s not so sim­ple: Ques­tions re­main on why Mrs. Clinton called women who were in­volved with her hus­band “bim­bos” and how her hus­band and his aides fo­cused on de­stroy­ing his ac­cusers. Mrs. Clinton stands ac­cused of pro­tect­ing her hus­band’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer — and her own — by be­lit­tling, bul­ly­ing and smear­ing women like Paula Jones, Gen­nifer Flow­ers and Mon­ica Lewin­sky. Ms. Lewin­sky even was moved to start an anti-bul­ly­ing foun­da­tion af­ter her or­deal at the hands of the Clinton ma­chine.

It’s de­press­ing that Mrs. Clinton is able to get away with crit­i­ciz­ing Mr. Trump for his com­ments on women, while she gets a free pass from the main­stream me­dia. But by in­tro­duc­ing Ms. Machado and her sketchy story into the mix, she opens the door to ques­tions about her own past treat­ment of the women in her hus­band’s life.

Now let’s get back to the is­sues, which is what should mat­ter in this elec­tion.

Mercedes Sch­lapp is a Fox News con­trib­u­tor, co-founder of Cove Strate­gies and for­mer White House di­rec­tor of spe­cialty me­dia un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.

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