Presidential Campaign

America cannot elect a fat-shaming misogynist as president

Donald Trump, Alicia Machado

We are in Day 3 of the Alicia Machado-Donald Trump campaign debacle. At the end of Monday night’s debate, Hillary Clinton landed quite a punch on an unsuspecting Trump.

She reminded Trump of the former Miss Universe who, after winning the crown in 1996, gained a few pounds, only to have Trump fat-shame her by forcing her to work out in front of a bunch of journalists.

At the time, Trump owned the Miss Universe pageant, and according to Ms. Machado, he called her horribly demeaning names like Miss Piggy and Miss Housekeeping, a particularly offensive remark given Ms. Machado is a Latina with an accent. 

He also publicly derided her on the Howard Stern show as “an eating machine.”

Who knew that a two-decade-old episode of debasing, demeaning and dehumanizing a young, insecure 19-year-old Venezuelan woman would become a defining moment in Trump’s misogynistic, racially fueled, divisive and bigoted presidential campaign?

Well it has. When Hillary Clinton brought it up, Trump seemed stunned, but he did not deny any of it.

In those few sentences, when Mrs. Clinton described the offensive remark that Donald Trump used against the young Ms. Machado, she hermetically sealed an image in voters’ minds that Donald Trump himself had carefully cultivated most of his adult life.

Mr. Trump’s view of women has been widely documented. He went on the Howard Stern show repeatedly when he was between marriages to grade women’s bodies and looks, and at one point he even said that he did not respect women.

He would describe lewd acts with them and talked about all the women who supposedly wanted to have sex with him.

Fast forward 20 years, and that view of women as inferior, as objects to be graded, ogled or worse — publicly fat shamed in front of reporters — was bound to become front and center of a campaign built on misogynistic, bigoted and racist tendencies.

Trump could make this recent pitfall go away with two simple words – “lo siento.” Or “I’m sorry.”

But we all know Donald will never utter those words or anything close to them.  In fact, he has doubled down on insulting Ms. Machado, calling her “the worst we ever had…the absolute worst.”

According to Ms. Machado, what he would tell her in passing and privately was far worse. In addition to calling her names like Miss Piggy and Miss Housekeeping, he would call her fat and ugly, etc.

Now that this has come to light, the Trump campaign is trying to push back hard, saying Ms. Machado’s claims are unsubstantiated though Trump did not deny calling her any of those things when it was brought to his attention during the debate.

The Trump campaign is also now attacking Ms. Machado for some of her past alleged misdeeds back in Venezuela where she was accused of threatening the life of a judge. She has denied the accusations and she was never charged with anything.

But none of that matters. Nothing makes you deserve to be demeaned, bullied, and shamed in public by your very powerful boss. Ms. Machado had aggravated eating disorders and bouts of depression for years afterwards.

The reason this episode is so damaging to the Trump campaign is because it feeds the image of Trump as a domineering and abusive boss, a man who devalues women and objectifies them for his own gain. This will cost him support among suburban white, college-educated women who are likely to play a key role in determining the outcome of this campaign.

It will also continue to cost him support among Latinos, who find this episode astonishingly offensive. It will become yet another rallying cry for Latino voters, this time led by a very popular former telenovela star and newly minted American citizen who is going to make her voice heard loud and clear this election cycle, and wants her fellow Latinos, Latinas and all Americans to do the same.

Try as the Trump campaign might to discredit Ms. Machado, she is very well known, well liked, and has many followers. Ever since the story broke, it has played nonstop, top-of-the-news on every Spanish-language television and radio station across the nation. That is a lot of Latino voters watching and listening.

But it goes much further than that. Every man in America has a wife, a girlfriend, a daughter, a sister, a mother, or even just a coworker or a friend who has gone through self-image issues, or has struggled with their weight at some point in their lives. 

Many will be able to relate to this and think it is despicable for someone in a position of power to debase and humiliate their young female employee in public.

It is all about character: Mr. Trump’s character (or lack thereof), and the character of our nation. I for one, as the mother of a young son and daughter, do not want this type of man who believes it is OK to shame, humiliate and bully women, as president of the United States.

How can I teach my son that women are not to be treated this way when he can look me in the eye and say “but Mom, the president of the United States does it.”  And he would be right.

And how can I teach my Latina daughter to stand tall and never think she is less than equal to any man, when the president of the United States does not value her?  What does that say about this country if we elect him?

So while this might be Day 3 of this issue, it certainly is not going away. The now-39-year-old Alicia Machado is ready to speak up, fight for and urge other Latinos and women and Americans who have ever felt bullied and belittled to have their voices heard by voting.

We should all do the same. That is how you stop Trump the bully in the political arena. Si se puede!

Maria Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.

The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill

Tags 2016 presidential election Donald Trump Fat-shaming Hillary Clinton Misogynist Miss Universe Pageant Republican Party United States
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