sábado, 1 de outubro de 2016
Alicia Machado told the truth about Trump, and the backlash is terrifying
Alicia Machado told the truth about Trump, and the backlash is terrifying
The former Miss Universe has been smeared for speaking out. Gossip about a woman’s past must have no bearing on how we judge the man who attacked her
Friday 30 September 2016 17.20 BST
The story of Alicia Machado is many things but as it pertains to the presidential election, it is a story about the time Donald Trump smeared a woman and riled up a media circus to spread the gossip. That was back in the 1990s and mostly fodder for tabloids. Now it’s happening all over again – only as part of a presidential campaign.
In the first candidates’ debate this week, Hillary Clinton invoked her opponent’s high-profile fat-shaming of Machado after she was crowned Miss Universe in 1996, comments that pushed her into a downward spiral of eating disorders for five years.
Until recently Trump wasn’t denying any of it – when the New York Times first asked Trump to respond to her story, he replied simply: “To that, I will plead guilty.” But on Wednesday, his campaign released talking points claiming the story was “totally baseless and unsubstantiated” and that Machado was merely attempting to “gain notoriety at the expense of Mr Trump’s name and reputation”.
The irony of course is that we can verify Machado’s story not in spite of Trump but because of him. It was he who made sure her weight-gain and his treatment of her was documented around the world; what’s changed is simply public perception.
Former Miss Universe Alicia Machado on Trump: ‘I know what he can do’
Back in May, Slate’s Jessica Winter published a roundup of the media’s cruel and inappropriate coverage from the time, much of which laughed right along with Trump: “No one could accuse Alicia Machado of being the size of the universe,” wrote a CNN correspondent at the time. “But as her universe expanded, so did she.” And while the media may have since advanced on the subject of fat-shaming – it’s no longer acceptable to write about young women’s weight that way – we’re still falling for Trump’s sensationalized media circuses.
This time the line of attack, pushed most aggressively by surrogates and rightwing news outlets, defames Machado as a porn star and murder accomplice, who once threatened to kill a judge and posed topless for Playboy, among other things. The latest assault came from Trump himself on Friday. He called her “disgusting” on Twitter and asked followers to “check out sex tape and past”. Even if the worst of this is true, it doesn’t invalidate anything she said about Trump.
The real headline should be “Woman Who Speaks Truth About Presidential Candidate Endures Second Character Assassination”. The sequence is familiar by now: throughout history, women who speak out against powerful men – as Machado did, for instance, in the New York Times earlier this year – have been subject to a backlash. They’re slut-shamed or cast as crazy, as the Anita Hill movie, Confirmation, recently reminded us.
Instead the Daily Caller went with “Porn Star Campaigns For Hillary Clinton,” while the Daily Mail landed upon “Miss Universe ‘fat-shamed’ by Donald Trump was accused of threatening to kill a judge and being an accomplice to a MURDER bid in her native Venezuela,” noting that it was “unknown if [the] Clinton campaign vetted Machado”. Alex Jones’s conspiracy-theory-mongering site also speculated luridly about the father of Machado’s daughter’s past.
First off, the Clinton campaign confirmed to the Guardian that she is not being paid by them. She’s a volunteer.
The pornography charge appears to be false. The website Snopes, which specializes in debunking online hoaxes, writes that the anal sex clip that turns up on free porn sites under Machado’s name appears to be from the 2004 feature Apprentass 4, which stars another woman. Machado did pose on the cover of Playboy – twice in fact. But if it’s going to be used to smear her character, perhaps it’s relevant to note that so has Donald Trump? The difference is Trump kept his shirt on, but even that was probably only in deference to the preferences of the audience. And speculation relating to her seven-year-old daughter should not be a journalistic enterprise at any respectable media organization.
The most substantive charge is that in 1998 a 21-year-old Machado was accused of driving a getaway car after her boyfriend shot his brother-in-law. This is from the Economist’s report at the time:
The male lead in this complex plot is Miss Machado’s rugged boyfriend, Juan Rafael Rodriguez Reggeti. He had a sister, who, eight months pregnant, jumped off a fifth-floor balcony. He, allegedly, blaming her husband for the suicide, sought revenge by firing two shots at him just after the funeral. The husband was hit but survived. Mr Rodriguez fled in a car driven, say the police, by Miss Machado.
The investigating judge, Maximiliano Fuenmayor, issued an arrest warrant for Mr Rodriguez. But Miss Machado, who claimed she was ill at home at the time, seemed to be in the clear, for the moment anyway. It was a short moment. Within hours, Mr Fuenmayor had a telephone call from her. He says she threatened to ruin his career and have him killed. She admits she rang, but says it was merely to thank him for his unbiased pursuit of justice.
The accusations went nowhere and she never faced charges. The report that she drove a getaway car was dropped almost 20 years ago due to lack of evidence. More recently, they did not prevent her from obtaining US citizenship in August, a process involving a background check and clearance.
Interestingly Corey Lewandowski, the Trump operator who dredged up the allegations, was charged with battery as recently as this year. And unlike, Machado, who has only volunteered, the former campaign manager was, until Thursday, still on Trump’s payroll.
Machado’s role in the debate has also spawned claims that a profile I wrote was orchestrated with the Clinton campaign.
To be clear: it was not. I never communicated with the Clinton campaign around this story except to ask for a comment on Monday afternoon, as Politico explained.
Given a chance to respond to the personal accusations about her, Machado – whose English is imperfect – did not debunk them as forcefully as she might have (though again, she has been denying them for almost 20 years now). Instead she said something different, and something which has been largely misconstrued. After dismissing the reports as “speculation” born of her celebrity in Latin America she waxed indignant: “He can say whatever he wants to say, I don’t care,” she said. “You know, I have my past. Of course, everybody has a past. I’m not a saint girl. But that is not the point now.”
Trump’s campaign has latched on to this as evidence of her guilt. But perhaps there’s been something lost in translation. Trump said at the debate that she’s “no Mother Teresa” and here she’s echoing Trump’s implicitly sexist line from the debate. Mother Teresa is an actual saint – she shouldn’t have to be.
Let’s assume for a moment that the worst is true and she threatened a judge as a 21-year-old: it doesn’t make Trump look any better.
You shouldn’t have to be Mother Teresa to not be fat-shamed before millions of people. And Michael Brown being “no angel”, as the New York Times put it recently, shouldn’t have been relevant in a case about being killed by police, as Black Lives Matter tried to teach us.
These instances aren’t equivalent, but the point is people who lack power because they are women or minorities, or both, too often aren’t given the basic human dignities the rest of us take for granted.