WASHINGTON: Fresh off his presidential clash with Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump doubled down Tuesday on criticism of a former Miss Universe he accused of getting too fat, comments that could repel women voters.
Alicia Machado, who won the crown in 1996, has accused Trump — whose company owned the Miss Universe pageant until last year — of calling her “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping,” and publicly humiliating her over her post-victory weight gain.
The morning after Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, invoked Machado’s experience as an example of how the brash Republican billionaire treats women, he lashed out at the beauty queen.
“She gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem,” Trump told Fox News television Tuesday. “She was the worst we ever had. The worst, the absolute worst,” he added. “She was impossible.”
During their first presidential debate Monday night, Clinton raised Machado’s case in an exchange over Trump’s assertion that the Democratic candidate did not “look presidential.”
Excoriating Trump for his treatment of women, she recalled that he had called Machado “Miss Piggy,” and “Miss Housekeeping” because she is Latina.
“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.”
Trump appeared startled by the accusation.
“Where did you find this?” Trump asked Clinton three times.
Shortly after the debate, Clinton’s campaign released a video in which Venezuela-born Machado says she was scared of and intimidated by Trump.
“He’d yell at me all the time. He’d tell me ‘You look ugly,’ or ‘You look fat,’” she says. “He bears many grudges, and harbors a deep racism, and he is convinced that there are lesser human beings than him.”
Trump is seen in 1990s footage saying Machado “weighed 118 pounds or 117 pounds (53 kilograms) and she went up to 160 or 170 (72.5 or 77 kg). So this is somebody that likes to eat.”
Throughout his campaign Trump has faced intense scrutiny over his treatment of women, and Clinton assailed her rival on the issue.
During a news conference call Tuesday, speaking in a mix of Spanish and English, the former beauty queen heaped even more contempt on Trump for his past mistreatment.
“He doesn’t remember me, he doesn’t remember many things that he did to me, or that he told me,” Machado told reporters.
Some of her remarks to reporters — and others written on her @machadooficial Twitter account — gushed support for the Democratic nominee.
“She is ready and able to be president,” Machado tweeted.
Meanwhile, Trump’s case of the sniffles during the presidential debate has gone viral on social media, spawning jokes and ironic asides about a candidate who has made his opponent’s health an issue.
Hashtags like #Sniffles, #TrumpSniffles and #Trumpsniffing proliferated after the Republican sniffled repeatedly in the opening minutes of the widely watched matchup.
Comedian Stephen Colbert joked that Trump “sounded like he was fighting off a cold with cocaine.”
Former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean likewise tweeted: “Notice Trump sniffing all the time. Coke user?”
His tweet drew widespread ire from Trump supporters, with some calling it “shameful,” while others said Dean was a “loser” and asked him to “take your foot out of your mouth.”
Clinton’s debate comment about her opponent’s “Trumped-up trickle down” positions was immediately linked to his runny nose.
Others asked about Trump’s health. “Sounds like pneumonia to me,” tweeted former Democratic congressman John Dingell.
Pneumonia knocked Clinton off the campaign trail for a few days earlier this month, after Trump repeatedly raised questions about her health and stamina.
“Geezus, Trump is going to make HRC sick again!” tweeted Carla Ingraham, playing on his “Make America Great Again” slogan.
In an interview with “Fox and Friends,” Trump, who throughout the debate touted his “stamina,” said he didn’t have a cold or allergies. “There were no sniffles,” he said, blaming a faulty microphone instead.
Speaking on her campaign plane to reporters, Clinton later said: “Anybody who complains about the microphone is not having a good night.”