Hillary Clinton waited until the final moments of today’s presidential debate to bring up Donald Trump’s history of insulting women. When she did, it was brutal.
This issue has haunted Trump since the very first Republican primary debate, when Fox News
anchor Megyn Kelly publicly reeled off a list of his worst comments. He had called women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals”, among other things. Clinton added another unsettling example.
“One of the worst things he has said was about a woman in a beauty contest. 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,” Clinton said.
“Donald, she has a name. Her name is Alicia Machado and she has become a US
citizen, and you can bet she’s going to vote this November.”
Clinton didn’t just pull Machado from obscurity. The actress, singer and former beauty queen from Venezuela won the Miss Universe pageant in 1996, when she was 19 years old. Trump had just taken ownership of Miss Universe at the time, and his then-wife Marla Maples co-hosted the competition.
Machado became the first Miss Universe winner to pose for Playboy.
Within months of her triumph, Machado had gained almost 20 kilos. There were demands for her title to be stripped – isn’t the beauty industry wonderful? – and Trump publicly humiliated her.
According to a report from Inside Edition in May, Trump told Machado to lose weight, and sent her to a gym to work out with the media watching.
“She weighed 118 pounds, or 117 pounds, and she went up to 160 or 170. So this is somebody that likes to eat,” he told the cameras.
“He called me, like, Miss Piggy, Miss Housekeeping … I was very depressed,” she told Inside Edition. “For sure, he’s not a good person.”
Clinton obviously planned to bring up Machado’s story at the debate, because shortly after she was mentioned, the campaign released a fundraising video starring her. In it, Machado revealed more details about her encounters with Trump.
“He was overwhelming. I was very scared of him. He would yell at me all the time. He’d tell me, ‘You look ugly,’ or ‘You look fat,'” she said.
“Sometimes he would ‘play’ with me and say, ‘Hello Miss Piggy,’ and ‘Hello, Miss Housekeeping.'”
Machado claimed Trump didn’t pay her for her work representing the Miss Universe pageant.
“As Miss Universe, I participated in more ad campaigns than most. In a year, I earnt the company a lot of money. By contract, I should have earnt 10 per cent on all the commercials and work I did. I was never paid.”
She also blamed Trump for sparking the eating disorders that plagued her in the years after her victory.
“It was very humiliating. I felt really bad, like a lab rat,” she said of his stunt at the gym.
“Long after, I was sick with eating disorders. I wouldn’t eat, and would still see myself as fat, because a powerful man had said so.
“This is a man who doesn’t realise the damage he causes. He bears many grudges, and harbours a deep racism, and he is convinced that there are lesser human beings than him.
“But now I’m strong, I am an American citizen, and I’m going to vote.”
After extricating herself from the Miss Universe furore, Machado appeared in South American and Spanish soap operas, and even released two music albums. She also became the first winner of Miss Universe to pose for Playboy. She was granted American citizenship in May, and has been publicly campaigning against Trump ever since.
“It was like a great monster reappearing in my life,” she said of Trump’s candidacy in June, speaking to Think Progress.
“He made me feel small. He threatened me, treated me rudely. He called me Ms Housekeeping in front of his friends.
“He hates girls. He considers girls to be less. We have another status to him.”
Having been thrust into the brightest of spotlights during today’s debate, Machado made it clear she had no intention of shutting up. She even thanked Clinton for mentioning her.
“Thank you, Mrs Hillary Clinton. Her respect for women and our differences makes her great! I’m with you!” she said, according to my embarrassingly basic understanding of Spanish. There was definitely a “thank you” in there, that much I know for sure.
Trump did not dispute Clinton’s characterisation of his attitude towards Ms Machado. As she spoke, he simply interjected, “Where did you find this?” several times, and he made no mention of Machado during his subsequent response.