By D. Allan Kerr
I didn’t watch the big debate Monday night. Initially I forgot about it, and then when I remembered I was in the middle of a classic “Deadwood” mini-binge and just couldn’t bring myself to listen to our White House contenders again.
So after I rolled out of bed on Tuesday I tuned into MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to catch the highlights. The hosts played a couple of clips from the debate and they were pretty much what I expected. They brought out Donald Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, of whom I know very little, and the interview that followed seemed rather generic. Big surprise – she thought Trump did good.
I shut off the tube, got my daughter ready for school and myself for work.
But before I left, I scrolled online to catch a glimpse of what’s going on in the world and noted an item about Hillary Clinton calling out Donald Trump during the debate, about his treatment of a 19-year-old beauty pageant contestant.
She was referencing the 1996 Miss Universe winner, who Trump referred to at the time as “Miss Piggy” and, because she’s Latina, “Miss Housekeeping.”
“Donald, she has a name,” Clinton said, while Trump, clearly caught flatfooted, sputtered, “Where did you find this?”
“Her name is Alicia Machado and she has become a U.S. citizen,” Clinton continued, “and you can bet she’s going to vote this November.”
Now, it turns out that two decades ago, Machado represented Venezuela as she became the first Miss Universe after Trump took over the pageant. Trump decided she was too fat for a beauty queen and started calling her names.
A 19-year-old girl.
I had never heard this story before, and even after witnessing all the other evidence of Trump’s total lack of class I was a little stunned.
So the very next day, Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and company had Trump’s campaign manager on their set and the issue never came up.
My first question would have been: “As a woman, after hearing that story, how can you in good conscience represent this guy?”
And then the next questions would have been: “What possible motivation would Donald Trump have to verbally assault a 19-year-old girl? What does that say about the kind of person he is?”
But it gets worse.
Trump also called this girl “fat” and “ugly,” and arranged for an unannounced visit by members of the media to watch her work out when she was trying to lose weight.
“It was very humiliating,” she says in a video put out by the Clinton campaign, which she now supports. “I felt really bad, like a lab rat.”
After being targeted by these attacks from an authority figure, she wound up battling eating disorders for several years afterward.
So let’s stop and take a look at this for a moment. Let’s set aside all the other clownish buffoonery about building walls and knowing more about ISIS than military generals and all the other stupidity we’ve seen. Let’s just focus on this one singular incident.
Because to me this says more about the man’s character than anything else I’ve ever heard. This one tale embodies the sexism, the racism, the stupidity, the crassness and nastiness and the overall Orange Weasel qualities of the guy.
Forget the comments about men like John McCain, who is leagues above Trump; after all, having survived more than five years in a Vietnamese POW camp, he can take it. And forget for a moment the nasty comments he’s made about Rosie O’Donnell, who can more than handle a twerp like Trump.
This is a man who hurled names and insults at a 19-year-old beauty contestant, bullying and humiliating her at what should have been the most glorious time of her life. No matter your political persuasion, I want you to ask yourself– who does that?
Oh, and like so many others who do business with this guy, she never got paid what she was owed.
Keep in mind this was not the act of an immature young man yet unwise in the ways of the world. Trump would have been 50 years old around this time, with daughters of his own – one a teenager.
In 2016, Alicia Machado may be Donald Trump’s Willie Horton.
Forget the question of whether the guy deserves to be Commander-in-Chief, or President of the United States, or the Leader of the Free World – this is simply a repugnant human being. As a man, and especially as the father of a beautiful eight-year-old daughter, I don’t merely want to cast a vote against this candidate – the villain in this story is a slimebag I feel compelled to punch right in the face.
Sorry, but I’m old-school that way. In my world that’s what you do when an asshole disrespects a woman.
But these days I don’t expect much more from Trump. I do, however, expect more from broadcast media. When they hear a story like that, how can they not follow it up? How can you not probe and prod and ask, what kind of man is this? For Christ’s sake, Mika Brzezinski once wrote a book called “Knowing Your Value: Women, Money and Getting What You’re Worth” — how could she NOT ask Trump’s female campaign manager about this episode the morning after the debate?
I’m picking on Morning Joe here because that’s the show I happened to catch, but it really applies to all of the national TV “news” programs. It so happens that the very morning this program was airing, Trump called in to rival “Fox and Friends” and continued to viciously attack Machado.
“She was the worst we ever had, the absolute worst,” he said. “She gained a massive amount of weight and it was a real problem. We had a real problem with her.”
Of course the Fox hosts just sat there slackjawed while he spoke and didn’t bother to ask about the “Miss Piggy” or “Miss Housekeeping” name-calling, but I typically don’t hold those particular folks to a very high bar anyway. I don’t even know their names.
You can talk about policies and positions and punditry and all that, but I usually like to get a sense of the character of the person who’s asking for my vote. These media folks, when they have the opportunities that we don’t, need to utilize those moments and help us complete that portrait.
For Trump, it’s not a flattering one.
(September 28, 2016)