Like many Nevadans, I watched the first two presidential debates and saw a studied and poised Hillary Clinton run circles around an unprepared and unhinged Donald Trump. One candidate demonstrated the temperament of a public servant who is capable of leading the free world. The other defended his attacks on Rosie O’Donnell, said he was “smart” for not paying taxes, and brushed off rooting for the housing crisis as good business acumen.
In the ensuing news coverage, however, it is clear that one moment stood out: when Hillary showed her resolve and stood up for one of the many people Donald Trump has attacked — former Miss Universe Alicia Machado.
Alicia Machado was the winner of the 1996 Miss Universe pageant and is one of the many victims of Trump’s bullying. Over the course of his career, his other victims have included small business contractors he has stiffed, Gold Star parents of fallen heroes he has disrespected, and a disabled reporter he has mocked. These insults fuel his campaign, like — as his running mate Mike Pence might say — “that Mexican thing” where he called immigrants from Mexico “rapists” and “criminals.”
Following Machado’s debut as Miss Universe, Trump denigrated the beauty queen by calling her “Miss Piggy,” and made her weight the central point of a hastily arranged media scrum. He also insulted Machado with the name “Miss Housekeeping,” stereotyping her Latina heritage.
As a former Miss Nevada, I was mortified that a presidential candidate once used this type of language, as if participation in a pageant entitles him to body-shame women. While the Miss America Organization and the Miss Universe Organization are different entities, they are equally comprised of enterprising young women. And hearing Donald Trump double down on these insults against Machado 20 years later is a valuable lesson for those who believe he can change.
Bringing up Machado’s weight the day after the debate, Trump said, “She was the winner, and she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem. We had a real problem.” What you see is what you get with Trump.
Then, Trump surrogate and Review-Journal columnist Wayne Allyn Root recently sent this shame spiral further out of control. Root, in a column headlined “Elite are desperate to derail Trump,” further disparaged Machado, making accusations about her sex life and character.
Root and Trump play a similar game, one that delegitimizes women by impugning their character through gossip and public shaming. This revolting tactic has been on full display this election and came to a head with the recent revelation of Trump’s past comments.
When Trump disagrees with someone, he personalizes his attacks and attempts to drag him into the gutter. His attack dog Root will do the same, week after week, until his candidate loses on Election Day. For women across this country faced with men like Trump and Root, I recommend taking a page from First Lady Michelle Obama’s book: “When they go low, we go high.”
We know the power of our vote, and women across the country will work together to keep Trump and his disgraceful lackeys out of the White House.
Teresa Benitez-Thompson, a Democrat from Reno, is a member of the Nevada Assembly.