WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump shamed a former beauty pageant winner Friday for her sexual history and encouraged Americans to check out what he called her "sex tape," in an early-morning tweet-storm that dragged him further away from his campaign's efforts to broaden its appeal to women.
A day after he injected former President Bill Clinton's dalliances into the campaign, Trump accused Hillary Clinton's campaign of helping 1996 Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado get U.S. citizenship, but offered no proof.
He claimed Clinton sought to exploit her as a campaign cudgel against Trump, who had shamed Machado for gaining weight when he owned the pageant. Clinton had cited Trump's comments in Monday's debate.
On Friday, Trump said Machado had a "terrible" past that a "duped" Clinton had overlooked before holding her up "as an 'angel.'"
"Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?" read missive from Trump posted on his verified Twitter account at 5:30 a.m.
Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2016
Trump's taunt appeared to refer to footage from a Spanish reality show in 2005 in which Machado was a contestant and appeared on camera in bed with a male contestant. The images, posted this week to a newspaper's website, are grainy and does not include nudity. The show took place almost a decade after Trump invited reporters to watch Machado exercise after she won Miss Universe and then gained what he's recently described as "a massive amount of weight."
The outburst was an extreme reminder of how Trump has seemed unable to restrain himself from veering into unhelpful territory, even with the election less than 40 days away. Trump's allies have implored him to stick to attacks on Clinton over her family foundation, her emails or her long history as a political insider, critiques that fall further out of view whenever Trump sparks a new controversy.
Shaming Machado over intimate details from her past was particularly risky as Trump tries to broaden his appeal to female voters, many of whom are turned off by such personal attacks. It also risks calling further attention to the thrice-married Trump's own history with women.
Clinton's campaign had no immediate formal reaction. But Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon took to Twitter to ask, "What kind of human being is this?"
The flurry on Twitter began shortly after 3 a.m. on the East Coast when Trump complained about stories about his campaign based on anonymous sources and told his supporters not to believe them.
"There are no sources, they are just made up lies!" he wrote.
Trump's latest broadside against Machado came the day after he warned voters that a Hillary Clinton victory would bring her husband's sex scandal back to the White House. It was his latest effort to bounce back from Monday night's debate performance, which has been widely panned as lackluster. In contrast, Clinton has delivered a mostly positive message in the days since her debate performance re-energized her candidacy.
Clinton is stressing that her plans will solve the kind of kitchen-sink problems facing American families — the high cost of childcare, mounting student debt and unpaid family leave. Trump, though promising lower taxes and "jobs, jobs, jobs," has intensified the dire warnings and personal attacks that have defined his outsider presidential bid.
"The American people have had it with years and decades of Clinton corruption and scandal. Corruption and scandal," Trump said Thursday. "An impeachment for lying. An impeachment for lying. Remember that? Impeach."
After an investigation by an independent counsel, the House approved formal impeachment charges in late 1998 in connection with President Clinton's testimony about his affair with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky, and other matters. He was acquitted of the charges by the Senate.
Trump's team said he had been prepared to bring up the Lewinsky scandal during Monday night's debate but decided otherwise because the Clintons' daughter, Chelsea, was in the room. Trump did not bring up Lewinsky by name on Thursday.
Shortly before Trump's remarks, Clinton offered a more optimistic message to supporters in Iowa's capital city.
"I want this election to be about something, not just against somebody," she said in Des Moines.
Asked about the possibility that Trump would raise her husband's infidelities, Clinton said: "He can run his campaign however he chooses. That's up to him. I'm going to keep talking about the stakes in this election."