WASHINGTON — Donald Trump said Tuesday morning that he bested Hillary Clinton in Monday night’s much-watched and contentious presidential debate at Hofstra University, but he also complained that he got tougher questions and a “very bad” microphone.

“I don’t like to grade myself. I know I did better than Hillary,” Trump said in a phone call to Fox News, giving her a C+ and moderator Lester Holt a C, although his surrogates made much sharper attacks on the NBC anchor.

He blamed a defective microphone picking up his breathing and sniffles during the 95 minutes on the stage, saying, “I don’t want to believe in conspiracy theories, of course. But it was much lower than hers, and it was crackling.”

Speaking later to reporters on her campaign plane about to depart for a Raleigh, North Carolina, rally, Clinton said, “Anyone who complains about a microphone is not having a good night.”

Clinton said she thought those who watched the debate were able to see the “very clear differences” between their policies.

She said Trump spoke about the nation in bleak and “dire” terms. She added, “I thought on several occasions he was making charges and claims that were untrue.”

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As surrogates went on the air to spin the perception of who won the first of three debates the day after it occurred, Trump took the unusual step as a candidate of calling into the shows, while Clinton left it to others to make the case for her.

Though seasoned politicians, pollsters and political analysts say the real effects of the debate will not turn up in surveys of voters until next week, snap polls, focus groups and many pundits initially have given the edge to Clinton.

Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, said on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” “The pundits will have all their different views . . . but I know that message resonated all across America and particularly in places like Pennsylvania and Ohio and Michigan that have been so hard hit by these bad trade deals.”

Trump and his surrogates both attacked Holt, who they said asked him tough questions but avoided raising Clinton’s emails, Benghazi and the Clinton Foundation.

“I thought she was very bad in the first half when they were asking normal questions. But it changed when I got bad questions,” Trump said, referring to the shift from trade and taxes to his withholding of his tax forms and his questioning of President Barack Obama’s birthplace.

Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said on MSNBC that he should get credit for showing “great temperament and restraint” by not bringing up Bill Clinton’s infidelities after his rival accused him of berating women.

Trump said he might “hit her harder” in the next debate, a town hall at Washington University in St. Louis on Oct. 9.

“He can run his campaign however he chooses. I will continue to talk about what I want to do for the American people,” Clinton said when asked about that possibility.

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Trump repeated his criticism of Clinton being uncivil by attacking him for calling women names. But he then defended comments that Clinton said he made about Miss Universe contestant Alicia Machado when he called her “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeper.”

“She was the worst we ever had,” Trump said. “She gained a massive amount of weight, and that was a real problem.”

Machado told reporters Tuesday in a conference call arranged by the Clinton campaign that her experience with Trump could “open eyes” in the presidential election, according to The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, the federal judge whom Trump criticized Monday night as “very against police” said she stands by her 2013 ruling that stop-and-frisk as once used by the NYPD was indirectly racially biased and constitutional.

But former U.S. District Court Judge Shira A. Scheindlin added that the policing method can be applied constitutionally. “And I would want to see the police do it,” she told Newsday. “If anyone was able to burgle a house or rob somebody or attack somebody, sure, I’d like to see the police to stop that person if they had reasonable suspicion.”

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Trump and top surrogate, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, have said the policy made the city safer. But Scheindlin said data show the approach was not effective in curbing crime in New York City. “All it did was create a lot of hostility between the police and the community,” she said.

With Laura Figueroa and Emily Ngo