NEW YORK • Mr Donald Trump had hinted he might invite a former lover of Bill Clinton's to the first presidential debate tonight (tomorrow morning, Singapore time), but his campaign said yesterday it has no such plans.
Rather, Mr Trump's tweet to that effect was meant to show the Trump campaign has ways to "get inside the head of Hillary Clinton", Ms Kellyanne Conway, Mr Trump's campaign manager, said on CNN. "We've not invited her formally and don't expect her to be there as a guest of the Trump campaign," Ms Conway said of Mr Clinton's ex-lover, former model Gennifer Flowers.
Mr Trump's running mate, Mr Mike Pence, also said yesterday that Ms Flowers will not attend.
"Gennifer Flowers will not be attending the debate tomorrow night," he told Fox News Sunday. "Donald Trump was using the tweet yesterday really to mock an effort by Hillary Clinton and her campaign to really distract attention from what the American people are going to be focused tomorrow night, which is on the issues, on the choice that we face."
The Clinton campaign ridiculed Mr Trump's mention of Ms Flowers as frivolous. "If this is what Donald Trump wants this debate to be about, that's up to him," Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said on ABC.
"He's very experienced at providing television entertainment. The presidency's not about entertainment," Mr Mook said, referring to the show Mr Trump once starred in, The Apprentice.
Mr Clinton has admitted having an affair with Ms Flowers in the 1970s while serving as governor of Arkansas. Mr Clinton also had an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky in a scandal that led to his impeachment in 1998.
Mr Trump has criticised Mrs Clinton for not leaving her husband because of his marital indiscretions.
His mention of Ms Flowers came in a tweet on Saturday night after billionaire investor Mark Cuban, who is a vocal Trump critic and Clinton supporter, agreed to sit at the front of the audience for the televised debate in New York.
It is expected to shatter audience records, with up to 90 million Americans watching.
"If dopey Mark Cuban of failed Benefactor fame wants to sit in the front row, perhaps I will put Gennifer Flowers right alongside of him!" tweeted Mr Trump.
Further complicating matters, a Twitter account linked to Ms Flowers's official website said she would attend the showdown and suggested she backed Mr Trump.
Each campaign receives tickets from the Commission on Presidential Debates to use as it chooses.
Campaigns often engage in psychological warfare when picking guests. But inviting a woman who had a sexual relationship with an opponent's spouse would be in a different category.
If Mr Trump does invite Ms Flowers, he could be taking a risk because he faces a potentially record-high gender gap with women, who might be troubled by such an aggressive and personal move.
Meanwhile, the New York Times has endorsed Mrs Clinton for president, saying her intelligence, record of public service and other strengths qualify her for the post.
In an editorial, the influential daily dismissed Mr Trump as "the worst nominee put forward by a major party in modern American history".
The Times said the best case for voting for Mrs Clinton is to consider the challenges the US faces at home and abroad and what it called Mrs Clinton's capacity to rise to them.
NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE