About 45 minutes into presidential debate on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton fired an impressive salvo – reminding America that Donald Trump “is a man who has called women pigs, slobs and dogs.”
At the centre of her argument was the story of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, who competed and won the title representing Venezuela in 1996 when she was 19 years old. However Machado quickly became the subject of a media frenzy when she she reportedly gained 8 kilos during her subsequent reign as Miss Universe.
Trump, then executive producer of the pageant, responded by inciting a fat-shaming PR campaign, inviting media to an exclusive gym to snap photos as he made Machado do sit ups, jump rope and ride an exercise bike in front of the cameras.
In recounting the mortifying incident to The New York Times, Machado said she was on the verge of tears and had pleaded with Trump to not make her do it. “I said, ‘I don’t want to do this, Mr. Trump.’ He said, ‘I don’t care.’”
Trump’s vulnerabilities with both women and Hispanics was brilliantly utilized by Clinton, who moved Machado to tears when she recalled Trump’s slurs against her.
"And one of the worst things he 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.
She continued: "Donald, she has a name. Her name is Alicia Machado. And she has become a US citizen and you can bet she is going to vote this November."
Machado, who watched the debate with her family and has urged Americans to defeat Trump in the upcoming election, said that his comments had taken a huge toll on her physical and emotional wellbeing. “After that episode, I was sick, had anorexia and bulimia for five years," she told Inside Edition. "Over the past 20 years, I've gone to a lot of psychologists to combat this."
For his part, Trump has refused to back down from his criticism of Machado, defending his position in an interview with Fox and Friends this week.
"She was the winner and you know, she gained a massive amount of weight and it was a real problem. We had a real problem," he said. "Not only that, her attitude, and we had a real problem with her, so Hillary went back into the years and she found this girl - this was many years ago. And found the girl and talked about her like she was Mother Theresa. And it wasn't quite that way but that's OK. Hillary has to do what she has to do."
On Monday, after the presidential debate, Machado tweeted in Spanish, "Thank you Mrs. Hillary Clinton your respect for women and our differences make you great! I'm with you!"