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Did ‘sex tapes’ reference take presidential campaign down the wrong road? For Both Candidates?

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump visits the Kent County Republican Headquarters, Friday, Sept. 30, 2016, in Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP Photo/John Locher)

By JOSH LEDERMAN and STEVE PEOPLES | Associated Press

(AP) — Donald Trump is encouraging voters to check out a “sex tape” featuring the former beauty queen with whom he’s feuding. Hillary Clinton’s campaign is suggesting that a better rental is the adult film in which Trump himself appears.

With the presidential campaign taking a sordid turn Friday, even many of Trump’s supporters shook their heads, worried that their candidate’s latest outburst could further hurt him among female voters already skeptical but whose support he’ll badly need to win in November.

The Republican nominee’s a pre-dawn Twitter tirade tore into the 1996 Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, a Venezuela-born woman whose weight gain Trump has said created terrible problems for the pageant he owned at the time. Clinton had cited Trump’s treatment of Machado near the end of their first debate, and Trump has spent days revisiting his complaints about Machado.

“Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?” read a tweet Trump posted at 5:30 a.m., one in a series of attacks on her.

The “sex tape” tweet apparently referred to footage from a Spanish reality show in 2005 in which Machado was a contestant and appeared on camera in bed with a male contestant. The images are grainy and do not include nudity, though Machado later acknowledged in the Hispanic media that she was having sex in the video.

Muddying the waters: an explicit 2000 Playboy video with a cameo by Trump. In a short clip posted on the website BuzzFeed, Trump pours a bottle of champagne on a Playboy-branded limo on a New York street, surrounded by a gaggle of women.

“There’s been a lot of talk about sex tapes today and in a strange turn of events only one adult film has emerged today, and its star is Donald Trump,” said Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill, adding he hadn’t seen the film.

Meanwhile, Trump’s campaign accused the media and Clinton of colluding to set him up for fresh condemnation, to which Clinton retorted, “His latest twitter meltdown is unhinged, even for him.”

Machado herself took to…

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Lederman reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Jill Colvin in Jersey City, New Jersey; Catherine Lucey in Fort Pierce, Florida; and Sigal Ratner-Arias in New York contributed to this report.

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