In the wake of Tuesday night’s debate, rather than elaborating on his policy positions or explaining his disappointing performance, Donald Trump launched into an improbable war of words against former Miss Universe Alicia Machado.
But while Hillary Clinton – and her friends and allies in the media – want to paint Machado as a victim whose life was ruined by “misogynistic” pageant boss Donald Trump, Clinton may have bet on the wrong surrogate; Machado’s backstory seems complicated.
Machado, who won the crown in 1996, got into hot water with her then-employer Trump when she packed on the pounds during her reign as Miss Universe (she says she gained 15 pounds, Trump says it was closer to 60). And Hillary Clinton was quick to make Trump’s aggressive, “sexist” public behavior over Machado’s weight a national issue by bringing it up right at the end of Monday’s Presidential debate.
Trump didn’t help matters, doubling and even tripling down on his criticism of Machado’s alleged obesity in post-debate interviews.
Tuesday, Machado was feted in every major media outlet, with everyone from the New York Times to the Daily Beast penning sympathetic articles about Machado’s plight, describing everything from a “humiliating” Trump-led public workout routine, to a Trump-coordinated special diet that she says led to a host of eating disorders. The Washington Post put Machado’s claims in bold in their post-debate headlines.
The Times even did a several-hundred-word glowing bio of the beauty queen, saying Machado has “lived in agony” since her interactions with Donald Trump, and praising Clinton for turning Machado’s pain into a “potent political weapon.”
People magazine did a feature on Trump’s “weight-shaming,” accusing the real estate mogul of causing Machado’s anorexia and bulimia, as did Us Weekly.
Clinton even launched a damning Internet campaign video starring Machado, directed largely at Hispanic voters. AdWeek, which doesn’t typically comment on political matters, called the ad “powerful.” The Boston Globe printed a transcript of the Clinton press call with Machado verbatim.
But Clinton’s “angel” beauty pageant queen may not be everything her campaign would like Machado to be.
By Tuesday evening, though, the narrative surrounding Machado appeared to be unraveling as it became clear that Clinton hadn’t fully vetted Machado before sending her out on a full-court press against her former employer. The Daily Mail reported that Machado was accused of being an accomplice to a 1998 murder in Venezuela, aiding the murderer, her then-boyfriend, by serving as his getaway driver. Radar Online called the story, “Hillary’s nightmare.”
Machado was never indicted for the crime, or a subsequent accusation that she threatened to murder the judge in the case, but failed to answer questions about the incident directly, telling Anderson Cooper that she’s “not a saint girl,” but that that “is not the point now.”
Trump surrogates pounced.
Alicia Machado's CNN clip is too much.
Brags about being "really famous."
Hillary, epic fail…
— A.J. Delgado (@AJDelgado13) September 28, 2016
Also on Wednesday, the Daily Caller reported that Machado once appeared in hardcore pornographic films and had also posed topless for Mexican Playboy over the years. According to the Daily Caller, “snippets of an adult film starring Machado are available on multiple free porn websites”. Indeed, a web search reveals highly NSFW clips of a woman described as “Alicia Machado, Miss Universe 1996” engaged in anal sex.
(Rush Limbaugh denounced Machado as a “porn star” on Wednesday on his radio show).
But aside from Anderson Cooper, the mainstream media, despite having Associated Press records from the 1998 incident and trial, has failed to mention much about Machado’s past at all, outside of her brief stint as a Trump employee.
Machado made an appearance on a sympathetic Today show Wednesday morning as a Clinton surrogate, telling the hosts that Trump “hasn’t changed since fat-shaming” her in the 1990s, but did not face questions about her alleged criminal history, though the story seems relevant to Machado’s credibility.
For Trump though, his personality seems to be getting in the way of effectively combatting Machado’s message. Determined to take the bait, Trump is having a difficult time handling Clinton’s strategy with care, and it’s unlikely the media will help the Republican nominee very much.