Right-wing media surrogates defended Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s fat-shaming comments about former Miss Universe Alicia Machado by suggesting she had a contractual obligation to stay thin. This excuse falls far short of justifying the public shaming Machado has endured from Trump.
Trump has a long history of sexism and a penchant for belittling women. Trump attacked Fox anchor Megyn Kelly for her critical coverage, calling her “Crazy Megyn” and suggesting you could see “blood coming out of her wherever” following her tough questioning in Fox News’ Republican primary debate. Trump claimed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton got “schlonged” by President Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign. He defended former Fox CEO Roger Ailes against claims of sexual harassment, and now the notoriously sexist Ailes serves as an informal adviser to the Trump campaign.
Clinton attacked Trump’s history of sexism during the presidential debates, in part referencing the story of Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe winner, and saying Trump is “a man who has called women pigs, slobs, and dogs.” Trump went on Fox News’ Fox & Friends the next day and doubled down on his comments, calling Machado the “worst, the absolute worst” and saying she was “impossible” because “she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem.” Numerous Trump surrogates in the media have attempted to defend Trump’s blatant sexism by suggesting that Machado had a contractual obligation to stay fit. From the September 28 edition of CNN’s New Day:
ALISYN CAMEROTA (HOST): I have to ask you. Because I know your lovely, smart, beautiful Hispanic wife, I just have to ask -- what does Mercedes think about what Trump said?
MATT SCHLAPP: We talked about it last night. Let me tell you, throughout this whole very interesting political year, we're often each other's counselor at the end of the day when interesting things happen on the trail. And I guess her reaction was -- she's in the news business, Alisyn, as you are, and it's not uncommon for women and men, but a lot of times women, in the news business or in the acting business to have actual language in their contracts that their physical appearance has to maintain some kind of standard. And people might not like that, but it's in contracts. And I'm not going to ask people if it's in their contracts or not, but she understands that. Is it fair, is it not fair? Let's face it, TV, Miss Universe pageants, movies, it's a lot about their physical appearance. Alisyn I can tell you, in my case, thank God I don't have that, because that's not exactly one of my strengths in life.
SCHLAPP: Now, come on, let's all be candid here. People who are beautiful get involved in Miss Universe pageants and part of that is their physical appearance. And I think this is when it gets to like common sense. People in America have been watching pageants for decades and they understand that's a part of it, it's a part of the culture. Is that a culture my wife has been involved with? No. But you have every right to be involved in that culture if you want. And if you sign a contract, you've got to follow it.
Even if Machado’s contract did include a requirement to stay below a certain weight, it certainly wouldn’t justify the sexist and insulting episodes of body-shaming Trump has forced her to endure. It is highly unlikely her contract compelled her to participate in a 1997 press conference that centered on Machado’s exercise regimen, a stunt BBC’s Katty Kay rightly denounced as “the most grotesque exercise in humiliation of a woman.”