Donald Trump Told Miss Universe Alicia Machado: Do Sit-Ups or You’re Fired
The medically overweight nominee forced Machado to exercise in front of reporters to keep her Miss Universe job in 1997. Now he won’t let it go.
On early Tuesday afternoon, she appeared on a press call hosted by Team Hillary to discuss, among other things, how Donald Trump and this election have been a “really bad dream for me.”
Machado, now an actress and activist, pledged on the phone call to do everything she could between now and November 8th to urge her fellow Americans to pull the lever for Hillary and defeat Trump, her one-time beauty-pageant terrorizer.
“I'm a real woman," she said. “I'm a mother. I'm an activist. I'm here for her.”
Machado mentioned how she cried last night when Clinton stuck up for her during the debate, and how “grateful” and “surprised” she was. After all, the first time she interacted with a 2016 presidential candidate, Donald Trump forced her to do sit-ups to keep her job.
Clinton’s team has already made Machado’s story a highly visible part of her campaign. The former Miss Universe has already stumped for Clinton in Miami late last month, just as Machado became an American citizen and registered to vote.
But two decades before she ever campaigned for Clinton and became the main topic during a televised presidential debate, the former beauty queen was already the target of Trump’s public fat-shaming tactics—which even included being forced to work off her weight at a gym in front of an assembled gallery of reporters.
It all started in 1996, when Machado, representing Venezuela and only 19 years old, won the Miss Universe crown. (It was the same year that Trump bought Miss Universe, Inc., and first assumed his role as executive producer of the annual international pageant.) Machado quickly became the subject of a media frenzy when she she reportedly gained almost 60 pounds during her subsequent reign as Miss Universe.
“When Alicia Machado of Venezuela was named Miss Universe nine months ago, no one could accuse her of being the size of the universe,” the 1997 CNN report reads. “But as her universe expanded, so did she, putting on nearly 60 pounds.” (Years later, Machado would say she actually gained closer to just 15.)
It was then that Trump had invited what CNN called a “rowdy pool of reporters” to an exclusive gym to look on and snap photos as he trotted out the beauty queen to exercise in front of the cameras. Trump had her do sit-ups, ride a stationary bike, and jump rope for the crowd of photographers.
In recounting the gym incident to the New York Times, Machado said that “I was about to cry in that moment with all the cameras there. I said, ‘I don’t want to do this, Mr. Trump.’ He said, ‘I don’t care.’”
Rumors had surfaced that Machado might be forced to relinquish her Miss Universe crown if she didn’t slim back down.
“We had a choice of termination or do this,” Trump said at the time. “We wanted to do this... A lot of you folks have weight problems. I hate to tell you.”
In the years since, Machado has found herself in the middle of other tabloid-ready controversies, including being accused in 1998 of driving the getaway car from the scene of a shooting. (A Venezuelan judge concluded that there was insufficient evidence to arrest her as a suspected accomplice in the attempted murder.) But the one that she claims has stuck with her the most over the past two decades is the “bullying” and “racism” she says she endured from The Donald.
Earlier this year, Machado started making the media rounds, accusing Trump of bigotry. Machado alleged the GOP nominee referred to her as “Miss Housekeeping” and “Miss Piggy” during her Miss Universe stint. Trump had also dubbed her "an eating machine" on Howard Stern's radio show.
Machado told Inside Edition in May that Trump’s bullying occurred “all the time,” and claimed that it made her “very depressed.”
“After that episode, I was sick, anorexia and bulimia for five years,” she told The New York Times. “Over the past 20 years, I’ve gone to a lot of psychologists to combat this.”
Trump has not denied the allegations of cruel nicknames and bullying. When asked about his tactics and how he pushed her to lose weight, he simply stated, "To that, I will plead guilty.”
Trump has for years thought of what he did to her as a show of “support” and an act of charity.
During Monday night’s debate, Clinton shined a spotlight on Trump’s treatment of the former Miss Universe, and Trump took the bait.
“She has become a US citizen and you can bet she is going to vote this November," Clinton said on-stage, after referencing her story.
The Clinton campaign subsequently tweeted out a video it had shot recently starring Machado as one of Trump’s victims.
On Tuesday morning on Fox & Friends, Trump predictably doubled-down on his past jabs at Machado’s weight.
"She was the winner and, you know, she gained a massive amount of weight and it was a real problem—we had a real problem," Trump said, in defense of his actions. "Not only that, her attitude, and we had a real problem with her, so Hillary went back into the years and she found this girl... and talked about her like she was Mother Teresa.”
Ironically, Trump is, himself, overweight. Even his campaign says so.
Earlier this month, a Trump campaign aide told The New York Times that TV personality Dr. Oz had declared Trump “slightly overweight,” coming in at 236 pounds. Other reports had him weighing in at closer to 267 pounds.
The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment on this story.