Alicia Machado, Rosie O'Donnell, and Donald Trump's history of body-shaming

Allegations of sexism continue to swirl around Donald Trump in the days following Monday’s presidential debate, during which Hillary Clinton accused Trump of mistreating 1996 Miss Universe Alicia Machado

Wednesday night’s episode of “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” dedicated two separate segments to unpacking some of the controversial comments that have dogged Trump over the past several decades.

In Wednesday’s first segment, Noah recapped the Machado incident, while admitting that those involved with beauty pageants accept a certain level of increased scrutiny. But, Noah contended, buying into those heightened standards of conventional beauty hinder Trump because such behavior isn’t presidential.

The second segment furthered the argument against Trump’s behavior by alleging that it’s egregious because his attitude toward women isn’t reserved exclusively for beauty pageant contestants, but as videos show, it’s levied at all women equally, be it Carly Fiorina, during the Republican primaries, or his own daughter, Tiffany, when she was an infant. 

“The Daily Show” also included footage of Trump from a 2007 event during which the candidate told a story of hiring a teenage waitress on sight even though she had no experience, because she was so beautiful.

The argument made by the late-night series carries more weight in light of a Thursday report from The Times detailing sworn statements given by former employees of Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes who believed that Donald Trump “pressured subordinates at one of his businesses to create and enforce a culture of beauty, where female employees’ appearances were prized over their skills.” 

The renewed interest in incidents of sexism involving Trump began in earnest in the wake of Monday night’s debate when, dropped in among the expected talking points, there appeared an unexpected challenger in former Miss Universe Alicia Machado

Competing with the familiar campaign staples of unreleased tax returns and destroyed email servers, Machado was presented as an opportunity to revisit that narrative by the Clinton campaign, one that they felt encapsulated Trump’s historical relationship with women. 

Machado, then Miss Venezuela, was crowned Miss Universe in 1996, the year that Donald Trump took over ownership of the pageant. 

According to Machado, Trump would refer to her as “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping,” nicknames related to her post-pageant weight gain and heritage, respectively. 

“He insulted me,” Machado said Tuesday morning in a conference call with reporters organized by the Clinton campaign. “He mistreated me thousands of times.”

Trump did not take the accusations lobbed by Clinton lightly, even going so far as to address the issue on “Fox & Friends” Tuesday morning.

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“She was the worst we ever had. The worst. The absolute worst. She was impossible,” Trump said during the phone interview with Fox News. “She was the winner and, you know, she gained a massive amount of weight and it was a real problem.”

In a 1997 interview with Howard Stern, Trump described the situation saying, “She gained about 55 pounds in a period of nine months. She was like an eating machine.”

He went on to tell Stern in the interview that he invited reporters to the gym to watch Machado work out in the hopes that he could turn her weight loss into a “big event.” 

Machado’s version of the incident as told to the Washington Post in 1997 describes the ambush by reporters as a surprise that came after asking for help.

“I asked him to please send me to a trainer or a nutritionist or something because I needed some orientation, and he sends me to a gym in New York,” Machado recalled. “When I get there, there are 80 reporters waiting to watch me sweat. I thought that was in very bad taste.”

This was not the first time that allegations have been made regarding Trump’s treatment of women during this presidential campaign, nor was it the first time the candidate has engaged in body-shaming.

At the first Republican presidential debate in August 2015, Fox anchor and co-moderator Megyn Kelly questioned Trump’s history of derogatory comments toward women, including calling them “fat pigs” and “dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.”

Trump’s response to Kelly at the time was to quip that he only said those things to Rosie O’Donnell, an answer that Kelly refused to accept, pressing the candidate and asking if he was a part of the war on women. 

 (As Thursday’s Times report noted, Trump has defended himself in the past by saying he has “great respect for women” and “will do far more for women” than Clinton.)

O’Donnell came up again in Monday night’s debate, again of Trump’s own volition, in which he attempted to refute Clinton’s accusation about his mistreatment of women by explaining that many of his statements were addressing O’Donnell and that, “I said very tough things to her and I think everybody would agree she deserves it and nobody feels sorry for her.”

In 2006, Trump called O’Donnell a “slob” with a “fat, ugly face” on a segment for “Entertainment Tonight” and in 2007 called O’Donnell a “pig” during an interview with Larry King, statements made at roughly the same time as employees at Trump National Golf Club reported their experiences with Trump. 

References to Machado and O’Donnell weren’t the only vague references to body-shaming that Trump participated in Monday night. 

When asked about protecting the country from cyberattacks, Trump disputed the idea that hacks, such as those that breached the Democratic National Committee and voter registration systems in Arizona and Illinois, were perpetrated by other countries.

“I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK? You don’t know who broke into the DNC,” Trump said.

Federal law enforcement agents have stated that the hacks were likely carried out by Russian intelligence agents. 

libby.hill@latimes.com

Twitter: @midwestspitfire

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