WASHINGTON • Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has stepped up his attacks on a former beauty queen with a vague and unsubstantiated allegation about a sex tape in a Twitter tirade, provoking his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton to label him as "unhinged".
In one of a series of pre-dawn tweets, Mr Trump made reference - without giving evidence - to a sex tape involving Ms Alicia Machado, the Miss Universe from Venezuela whom he criticised for gaining weight after she won the crown in 1996. He also accused Mrs Clinton of helping Ms Machado obtain citizenship in order to exploit her story against him during the presidential debate.
"Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a US citizen so she could use her in the debate?" Mr Trump wrote on Twitter in the early hours of Friday local time.
He did not elaborate on his allegations beyond saying that the Clinton campaign had been "duped" by Ms Machado.
"Hillary floated her as an 'angel' without checking her past, which is terrible!" he wrote.
Hillary floated her as an 'angel' without checking her past,which is terrible!
REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE DONALD TRUMP, on Ms Alicia Machado, the Miss Universe from Venezuela, in his tweet.
This is... unhinged, even for Trump.
MRS HILLARY CLINTON, in her tweets in response to Mr Trump's allegation of a sex tape.
It is when Trump is alone with his thoughts, and untethered from his campaign staff, that he has seemed to commit his most self-destructive acts.
NEW YORK TIMES
The tweets were among a series of indignant messages which the real estate tycoon posted on Twitter between 3.20am and 5.30 am.
With less than six weeks to go until the Nov 8 election, his Twitter tirade provided critics with new fodder to question his temperament for the White House.
"This is... unhinged, even for Trump," Mrs Clinton said in her own pointed tweets in response to Mr Trump's sex-tape allegation.
"What kind of man stays up all night to smear a woman with lies and conspiracy theories?"
At a Florida rally later, she told her supporters that the episode "proves, yet again, that he is temperamentally unfit to be president and commander in chief".
She said "a man who can be provoked by a tweet should not have the nuclear codes".
In an article, the New York Times said: "The tirade fit a pattern. It is when Trump is alone with his thoughts, and untethered from his campaign staff, that he has seemed to commit his most self-destructive acts."
In his response to the criticisms, Mr Trump wrote on Twitter: "For those few people knocking me for tweeting at three o'clock in the morning, at least you know I will be there, awake, to answer the call!"
Ms Machado shot to public attention after Mrs Clinton raised her case at the first presidential debate last week. The latter lashed out at Mr Trump's history of abusive remarks, including him calling Ms Machado "Miss Piggy" and "Miss Housekeeping" over her weight gain and Latina origins.
The former queen called the latest online attack "cheap lies with bad intentions" and said she would not be intimidated.
By the end of the day, the Republican presidential candidate was faced with reports that he himself had appeared briefly in a pornographic video in 2000.
BuzzFeed website claimed that Mr Trump made an appearance in a Playboy softcore pornographic movie which it said it had obtained from an online adult video store in New York state.
"Trump's role in the porn is relatively benign and centres around him breaking a bottle of champagne on a Playboy-branded limo while several of the playmates are visiting New York City," the online media outlet said.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE