CANBERRA, Australia — An Australian former Miss Universe said Saturday that Donald Trump had always treated her with respect after a video emerged of an embarrassing exchange between the pair in Sydney in 2011.
Jennifer Hawkins won the pageant in 2004, when it was owned by Trump. Trump, now the Republican presidential nominee, accuses her in the video as he addresses 10,000 people at the National Achievers Congress in Sydney of initially refusing to introduce him. She blames a "miscommunication'' with her management.
The video, released by Huffington Post, shows Hawkins raising her forearm between she and Trump as Trump kisses her on the cheek. He gets laughs from the crowd with a double entendre and she tells Trump that he has embarrassed her before leaving the stage.
Hawkins, who Trump has described as his favourite Miss Universe, is a successful businesswoman who has praised Trump as an inspiration.
Donald Trump and former Miss Universe Jennifer Hawkins attends the National Achievers Congress at the Sydney Entertainment Centre on Sept. 20, 2011 in Sydney. (Photo: Adam Ward/Newspix/Getty Images)
"Donald and his family, I have to say, have always been respectful to me, and that's all I can really say,'' the 32-year-old said in Melbourne on Saturday as she was questioned by media in her role as an Australian department store ambassador.
"I've seen what's been going on in the news, but really what is there for me to say other than that he respected me during that time in my life and I have a lot of respect for him because of that,'' she added, referring to the 2004 pageant.
Hawkins has cancelled media interviews since early October, when video emerged of Trump engaged in vulgar conversation about women before an "Access Hollywood'' appearance in 2005.
"Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard and I'll give you an example: Jennifer Hawkins.''
Trump told the Sydney audience in September 2011 that he had prepared to denigrate Hawkins in his speech if she had not turned up to introduce him. He said Hawkins owed him for her success.
"Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard and I'll give you an example: Jennifer Hawkins,'' Trump said.
Hawkins' management did not respond to a request from The Associated Press for comment.