LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - Former beauty queen Alicia Machado, out in Los Angeles on Saturday (Oct 1) night, thanked people for their support after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump escalated his attacks on her.
Mr Trump had on Friday made a number of pre-dawn Twitter posts in which he made a vague and unsubstantiated allegation about a sex tape featuring Ms Machado that prompted Democratic rival Hillary Clinton to denounce him as "unhinged."
Mr Trump's refusal to drop his invective against Ms Machado, the Miss Universe he criticised for gaining weight after she won the crown in 1996, threatened to damage his already weak standing among women and Hispanics.
"Thank you very much for all the people that are supporting me right now. Thank you," she told reporters at the Metropolitan Fashion Week closing gala.
With less than six weeks to go until the Nov 8 election, Mr Trump made reference - without giving evidence - to a sex tape allegedly involving the Venezuelan-born Ms Machado, who had publicly denounced him all week as a humiliating bully.
His attacks provided critics with new ammunition to question his temperament for the White House.