NEW YORK • Real estate tycoon Donald Trump is under fire over inflammatory remarks about Mexican immigrants made when he announced he was running for the Republican nomination for president last month.
The anger has boiled over south of the border as well as at home in the United States.
Now Mr Trump, 69, is striking back, with a lawsuit against a TV network, accusing it of a political plot by supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to cripple his presidential run.
It all began on June 16 as Mr Trump announced his White House bid as a Republican candidate. He said Mexicans bring drugs and crime into the US.
"They're sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing their problems. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists, and some I assume are good people, but I speak to border guards and they tell us what we are getting."
Colombia was quick to withdraw its candidacy to host the Miss Universe show, for which Mr Trump owns the broadcast rights.
A social media campaign is urging Colombia's Miss Paulina Vega, who won the last Miss Universe pageant, to give up her crown. Mexico also dropped out of the pageant, with Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong calling the remarks "prejudiced and absurd".
ON MEXICAN IMMIGRANTS
They're sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing their problems. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists, and some I assume are good people, but I speak to border guards and they tell us what we are getting.
MR DONALD TRUMP
US broadcaster NBC and Mexican television giant Televisa announced on Monday that they were severing ties with Mr Trump, meaning they will not air his Miss Universe show, four days after Spanish-language US network Univision did the same.
On Tuesday, Mr Trump's Miss USA pageant co-hosts - TV presenter Thomas Roberts and model Cheryl Burke - quit the show.
NBC went further, sacking Mr Trump as host of its reality show The Apprentice.
But Mr Trump struck back on Tuesday, hitting Univision with a US$500 million (S$676 million) lawsuit over its decision not to show the Miss USA pageant.
Univision paid US$13.5 million in January to broadcast the Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Miss Universe competitions for five years, according to the suit, which includes claims of breach of contract and defamation.
According to the suit, a Univision executive called Mr Trump eight days after his speech to say it would end its relationship with the Miss Universe Organisation after being flooded with calls urging the company to sever ties.
However, Mr Trump's suit alleges that the decision was an attempt by Univision chairman Haim Saban, a supporter of Mrs Clinton, to suppress Mr Trump's First Amendment free speech rights as he criticises Mrs Clinton while running for president.
"We just reviewed Mr Trump's complaint for the first time, and it is both factually false and legally ridiculous," Univision spokesman Monica Talan said. Mrs Clinton called his remarks inflammatory.
But Mr Trump has not stopped talking about Mexico, tweeting on Tuesday: "I love the Mexican people, but Mexico is not our friend. They're killing us at the border and they're killing us on jobs and trade."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG