Trump shames ex-beauty queen for sexual history
Alleged 'sex tape' seems to refer to Alicia Machado's appearance on 2005 reality show
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.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported that Trump's charitable foundation appears to have skirted state law, and USA Today broke with its tradition of not taking sides in elections with an editorial that said the Republican candidate is "unfit for the presidency."
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A day after he injected former U.S. 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 the missive from Trump posted on his 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?—@realDonaldTrump
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 after she won Miss Universe and then gained what he's recently described as "a massive amount of weight."
Clinton, Machado respond
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.
Clinton responded with her own series of tweets, calling the remarks "unhinged, even for Trump."
"What kind of man stays up all night to smear a woman with lies and conspiracy theories?" she added, referring to the first of Trump's messages, which appears around 3 a.m. ET.
What kind of man stays up all night to smear a woman with lies and conspiracy theories?—@HillaryClinton
Machado struck a similar note, accusing Trump of trying to intimidate her with "slander and false accusations," in a statement released through her Instagram account.
"The attacks … are slanders and cheap lies generated with bad intentions, which have no foundation that have been spread by sensationalist media," she wrote in Spanish.
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.
Trump's latest broadside came the day after he warned voters that a 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 lacklustre. In contrast, Clinton has delivered a mostly positive message in the days since her debate performance re-energized her candidacy.
Charity not certified
Also on Friday, the Washington Post reported the Trump's multi-million dollar charitable organization has skirted a New York state law that requires such groups to register with authorities.
Charities in that state that solicit more than $25,000 per year from the public must be certified and submit to "a rigorous annual audit," to make sure the money is used properly, according to the newspaper. Trump's foundation has operated for decades.
The New York state attorney general confirmed to The Associated Press that the Trump Foundation is not registered in New York as a charity to solicit donations.
But Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who recently launched an investigation into the Donald J. Trump Foundation, would not say if the organization had violated any laws.
If it is found to have broken the law, Schneiderman could order the foundation to stop raising money immediately and, with a court's permission, force Trump to return money already raised, according to the Post.
The foundation's efforts include a recent fundraising drive, the results of which were to be given to U.S. veterans.
Trump has not responded to the allegations.
The Republican is also under fire from newspapers that, traditionally, either don't take sides in elections or don't support Democrats.
USA Today on Friday broke its tradition of not making endorsements when it urged its readers not to vote for Trump.
The paper stopped short of endorsing Clinton, but in a blistering op-ed that said Trump is "unfit for the presidency."
"Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he lacks the temperament, knowledge, steadiness and honesty that America needs from its presidents," the paper's editorial board wrote.
USA Today's only previous non-endorsement came in 1991 when it denounced white supremacist David Duke, who was running for governor of Louisiana.
Earlier this week, the Arizona Republic declared its support for Clinton — noting that the paper had never, in its 126-year history, backed a Democrat over a Republican for the presidency.
"This year is different," the paper said. "Clinton has the temperament and experience to be president. Donald Trump does not."
Trump said via Twitter those papers "will lose readers."
"The people are really smart … the people get it," he said.
Trump is due to appear at a campaign event in Michigan this afternoon.
With files from CBC News