Washington, (AFP): Donald Trump urged voters on Friday to check out the supposed “sex tape” of a former Miss Universe backing his rival Hillary Clinton, provoking the Democrat to label him “unhinged” in a surreal new turn to the White House race.
In a pre-dawn Twitter rant the Republican nominee accused Clinton of helping Alicia Machado obtain citizenship in order to exploit her story against him.
The Venezuela-born Machado, who claims the billionaire bullied her mercilessly after she won the Trump-owned beauty pageant in 1996, has shot to public attention since Clinton raised her case at this week’s presidential debate.
“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?” said Trump, in one of a series of virulent tweets.
Clinton has lashed out at Trump’s history of abusive remarks that included humiliating Machado over her weight gain and Latina origins, nicknaming her “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping.”
The Democrat said that Trump’s overnight attacks on the former beauty queen as new evidence that he is lacks the steadiness to be president.
“This is… unhinged, even for Trump,” Clinton said in her own series of pointed tweets in response to his sex tape allegation.
– The three am call -“Who gets up at three o’clock in the morning to engage in a Twitter attack against a former Miss Universe?” Clinton later asked supporters at a Florida rally.
“It proves, yet again, that he is temperamentally unfit to be president and commander in chief.”
Trump wrote on Twitter: “For those few people knocking me for tweeting at three o’clock in the morning, at least you know I will be there, awake, to answer the call!”
By highlighting Machado’s case Team Hillary managed to provoke Trump into a potentially damaging outburst with just five weeks left in the race.
The Machado issue helps Clinton with both women and Hispanics, key voters in a battleground state like Florida.
Clinton’s spokesman Nick Merrill said the former first lady called Machado to offer her support.
She thanked the former beauty queen “for all she had done and the courage she has shown,” Merrill said.
Machado meanwhile accused Trump in a new press release of issuing “slanders and false accusations about my life in order to humiliate, intimidate and unbalance me.”
She repeated her pledge of “absolute support for Secretary Clinton, on behalf of all women.”
– Unable to resist -Trump has often seemed to make provocative outbursts to deflect media attention — in this case from the widespread sense that he fared poorly in Monday’s debate. He has also hinted at plans to attack Clinton over her husband Bill’s past infidelity.
But he has also seemed unable, at times, to let any criticism go unanswered. Observers saw Clinton’s mention of Machado as an attempt to bait Trump.
“It is not apparent to us why he simply can’t stop attacking her,” a Clinton spokeswoman, Jennifer Palmieri, told reporters Friday in Florida.
Palmieri said neither Clinton nor anyone in the campaign helped Machado get citizenship.
According to the fact-checking website Snopes, Trump’s sex tape allegation apparently refers to Machado’s appearance on a reality TV show in which she is shown in bed, under covers, with another participant.
Machado also appeared in Playboy magazine. But a pornographic video circulated in recent years purporting to star the former Miss Universe was debunked as a fake.
Trump, addressing his nearly 12 million Twitter followers, said Machado had “duped” Clinton.
“Wow, Crooked Hillary was duped and used by my worst Miss U. Hillary floated her as an “angel” without checking her past, which is terrible!” he wrote.
– Clinton up in latest poll -Clinton pulled ahead of Trump by three percentage points in a Fox News national poll out Friday, besting the billionaire 43 to 40 percent.
Although Clinton’s lead is within the poll’s margin of error, it shows a bump for Clinton, who beat Trump by only one percentage point in the same poll two weeks ago.
The nationwide results come as Clinton’s numbers improve in a number of critical swing states following the debate.
Florida — with its prodigious number of electoral votes — has swung back toward Clinton since Monday’s debate, polling shows.
Meanwhile a Detroit News-WDIV-TV four-way matchup conducted in the battleground state of Michigan found Clinton leading Trump by seven percentage points after the debate.