Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton brought up a lot of sore points for her Republican opponent, Donald Trump, in Monday night’s debate.
One of the most damaging – and one Trump himself can’t seem to let go of – was his treatment of Alicia Machado, whom Clinton said he called “Miss Piggy” for her weight gain after she won the Miss Universe title in 1996.
Trump has gratuitously insulted a lot of people during his career, including by demeaning a lot of women about their looks, so Machado may have seemed like an obscure example for Clinton to focus on.
But there was a reason for this choice: Latinos have never forgotten how Trump insulted Machado, whom he also reportedly called “Miss Housekeeping” because of her accent.
Machado was the first Miss Universe winner after Trump bought the pageant. He was not pleased when she gained some weight after winning, and he was not shy about telling the press how he felt.
“She was like an eating machine,” he told Howard Stern.
When Machado asked for assistance from the Miss Universe organization in losing weight, Trump invited television reporters to record her workout, telling them “she weighed 117, 118 and she went up to 160, 170 pounds, so this is somebody who likes to eat.”
Clinton could have focused on Trump’s treatment of other women in the public eye – women far better known than Machado.
Clinton could’ve chosen to talk about Fox News’ Megyn Kelly. She could’ve chosen former GOP presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina. She could’ve chosen comedian Rosie O’Donnell (whom Trump brought up unprompted at the debate anyway). She could’ve even chosen Trump’s two ex-wives.
But the choice of Machado helps remind Latinos why they disliked Trump long before he started talking about Mexico sending “rapists” across the its border with the US and the need for a wall there.
In the 1990s, the Machado story was covered in Spanish-language news outlets both in the US and across Latin America. Trump was portrayed as a bully, and the tearful (but smiling – this is a pageant) 18-year-old Machado was seen as a victim of stressful circumstances.
Clinton seems to have succeeded in goading Trump into relitigating his dispute with Machado. Ever unable to let anything go, Trump complained on Tuesday morning that Machado’s weight gain was a “real problem” and that she was “the absolute worst,” a blunder so obvious it made even the hosts of “Fox & Friends” wince.
Trump has damaged himself most when he has gotten into fights with relatively obscure people, including the judge presiding over a lawsuit filed against Trump and the parents of a slain Muslim-American soldier.
Clinton knew exactly what she was doing – drawing Trump into something that is sure to enrage women and Latinos at the same time.
- Win McNamee/Getty Images
That was then, this is ‘ow!’
After Miss Universe, Machado went on to have a fairly successful acting and singing career in the Latin-American market. Her breakups and boyfriends have been the subject of celebrity gossip, and she has talked openly about Trump’s treatment of her since he started running for president.
Back in May she did an interview with Univision journalist Jorge Ramos – another respected Latino who has caught Trump’s ire – about Trump’s treatment of her.
“How did he treat you?” Ramos asked her.
“Abominably,” she responded. “And this isn’t the first time I’ve said it. I’ve spent the last 20 years telling people how I suffered that year, how that hurt me as a person. I suffered a lot of psychological violence.”
Ramos asked her why she was speaking out now.
“Well, because the man hadn’t run for president before,” she said. “He was just supposed to be a guy running casinos, not a great nation like the US.”
Machado definitely does believe it’s a great nation, because in August she officially became a US citizen.
Last month, she trolled Trump on Instagram, writing that she would be voting.
That’s some quality trolling.