NEW YORK — 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 said Machado had a "terrible" past that a "duped" Clinton had overlooked before holding her up "as an 'angel' in the first 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?" read a missive from Trump posted on his verified Twitter account at 5:30 a.m.
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 do not include nudity.
The show took place almost a decade after Trump invited reporters to watch Machado exercise and mocked her publicly for gaining weight after she won Miss Universe, which Trump owned at the time. In Monday's debate, Clinton brought up Trump's taunts of Machado.
Shaming Machado over intimate details from her past was particularly risky as Trump tries win over more 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.
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.
Rather than back way from the comments about Machado, Trump has repeatedly pushed it back to the center of the conversation, even as early voting in critical states gets underway. He said this week that Machado had gained "a massive amount of weight," adding that it was "a real problem."
On Friday, Trump said Clinton had been "set up by a con" in holding up Machado "as an 'angel' without checking her past, which is terrible!" He suggested Clinton had helped the Venezuela-born actress gain citizenship. Clinton's campaign, which has released videos featuring Machado and arranged for reporters to interview her, has highlighted her status as a new American and her plans to cast her first vote for Clinton.
Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon took to Twitter to ask of Trump, "What kind of human being is this?" And her campaign chairman, John Podesta, tweeted that as a man of a certain age he shares Trump's urge to get up in the middle of the night but added a "safety tip" — "don't reach for your phone."
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.