WHITE HOUSE RACE: ANALYSIS

Watch: Donald Trump gets booed as he slams ‘corrupt’ Hillary Clinton at awkward charity dinner

The candidates appeared onstage together and traded barbs in their speeches before shaking hands – but some guests took issue with the Republican’s jokes

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 October, 2016, 10:45am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 November, 2016, 10:22am

Donald Trump said he was in a room full of wonderful people at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York.

“Or as Hillary calls it, her largest crowd of her season,” he said with a chuckle, as Democratic rival Hillary Clinton laughed, too. “This is corny stuff.”

But as it progressed, Trump’s speech turned more biting.

Here she is in public pretending not to hate Catholics
Donald Trump

“Here she is in public pretending not to hate Catholics,” he said. Several in the crowd booed.

Jokes that seemed better placed at his roiling and adoring rallies set the heavily Clinton-leaning crowd on edge.

“Hillary is so corrupt she got kicked off the Watergate commission,” Trump declared.

“Booooo!” the agitated crowd called back.

Just 24 hours after engaging in fierce verbal combat in their final debate in Las Vegas and refusing to shake hands, Clinton and Trump were nearly elbow to elbow again, seated at the same table at the ballroom in the Waldorf Astoria, at a charity dinner famous for its humorous speeches.

Watch Trump’s speech at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner

If the third debate raised the question whether the two New Yorkers vying for the nation’s highest office could deliver a knockout blow or take a punch, the latest encounter tested each’s ability to deliver a punch line and take a joke.

Clinton, who spoke second, stuck to the self-deprecatory remarks and gracious gestures that have been the hallmarks of previous dinners. She got big laughs when she told the audience: “I just want to put you all in a basket of adorables.”

She told Trump that if he didn’t like what she was saying: “Feel free to stand up and shout ‘Wrong!’ while I’m talking.”

Watch Clinton’s speech at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner

That was a reference to Trump’s habit of interrupting her comments at the debate to disagree. Clinton added after Trump’s speech that she’ll “enjoy listening to Mike Pence deny that you ever gave it.”

Trump, with his arms folded, laughed. But he didn’t seem to think it was funny when Clinton said: “Looking back, I’ve had to listen to Donald for three full debates. And he says I don’t have any stamina. That is four-and-a-half hours. I have now stood next to Donald Trump longer than any of his campaign managers. Now, look, I have deep respect for people like Kellyanne Conway. She’s working day and night for Donald, and because she’s a contractor, he’s probably not even going to pay her.”

During the third presidential debate Trump had described Clinton as “such a nasty woman”. She called him “the most dangerous presidential candidate” in modern history. A day later, tradition at the 71-year-old dinner called for the two to lightheartedly rib each other. Their place settings were separated only by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, New York’s archbishop.

Before either spoke, the two candidates were warned to be civil toward one another by Al Smith IV, the great-grandson of the state’s 42nd governor. He won laughs when he spun an imaginary scene in which Trump greeted Clinton and asked how she was doing, and she would have said: “Fine, now get out of the ladies’ dressing room.”

Smith then got more laughs at Trump’s expense.

“Even though there’s a man sitting next to you in a robe, please watch your language,” he said, referring to his seat next to the cardinal.

The dinner’s namesake, Smith, was New York’s 42nd governor and the nation’s first Catholic presidential candidate. He was known as “the Happy Warrior” for the good humour with which he railed against political adversaries.

As has been the custom, the audience of 1,500 was dressed in white-tie formal attire. They paid US$3,000 to US$15,000 per person, raising about US$6 million for Catholic charities that will give services to impoverished New York children, according to Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for New York’s archdiocese.

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Trump told the audience that during the debate “I called Hillary a nasty woman, and after listening to her go on and on and on, I don’t dislike Rosie O’Donnell so much anymore.”

And: “Some people think this would be tough for me but the truth is I’m actually a very modest person, very modest. It’s true. In fact many people tell me that perhaps modesty is my best quality.”

Clinton gave a stream of one-liners. “We’ll either have the first female president or the first president who started a Twitter war with Cher,” she said.

“It great, also, to see Mayor Bloomberg here,” Clinton said, and smiled at former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the guests on the dais. “It’s a shame he’s not speaking tonight. I’m curious to hear what a billionaire has to say.”

None of Clinton’s remarks elicited booing. Afterward, she reached out and shook hands with Trump, a gesture absent at Wednesday’s debate.