ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Many times in this presidential campaign, Donald Trump has found a way to turn one day of bad headlines into a week of them. Well, it's happening again, as he continues to attack a former Miss Universe winner. His latest insults came today before many people were awake. NPR's Tamara Keith reports.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: It started with an exchange at the end of Monday's debate. Hillary Clinton brought up the former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, saying Trump had told her she was fat, calling her Miss Piggy and also Miss Housekeeping. During the debate, Trump, who owned the Miss Universe pageant until last year, seemed taken aback. The next morning, he called into "Fox & Friends," and it was clear he was still thinking about it.
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DONALD TRUMP: You know, she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was - it was a real problem. We had a - we had a real problem. Not only that - her attitude. And we had a real problem with her.
KEITH: What is perhaps most remarkable about that is it didn't come in response to a question. Trump offered it unsolicited. The controversy seemed to be dying down when, this morning, Donald Trump went on a pre-dawn tweet storm, saying Machado was his worst Miss Universe. And he finished with a tweet encouraging people to, quote, "check out sex tape and past." There is no evidence that such a sex tape exists.
Today, Clinton called Machado and thanked her for her bravery. And, at an afternoon rally in Florida, the candidate weighed in.
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HILLARY CLINTON: I mean, really, who gets up at 3 o'clock in the morning...
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Laughter).
CLINTON: ...To engage in a Twitter attack against a former Miss Universe?
KEITH: The Clinton campaign has, at times, struggled to deal with Trump and his ability to consume news cycles and overshadow the more positive message Clinton is trying to put out. But campaign communications director Jen Palmieri says this case is like the time Trump tangled with the Khan family after the Democratic convention, and Clinton had to defend Machado and call out Trump.
JENNIFER PALMIERI: He doubled down on it two days ago. And then, to continue to raise it, I think, is - brings it to a new level in terms of incomprehensible why you would continue to attack her.
KEITH: Trump returned to Twitter this afternoon, writing, quote, "for those few people knocking me for tweeting at 3 o'clock in the morning, at least you know I will be there, awake, to answer the call" - exclamation point. Tamara Keith, NPR News, Fort Pierce, Fla.
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