One day after trading policy prescriptions and attack lines at the final debate, on Thursday night Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump traded jokes – and attack lines – at a charity dinner fundraiser in New York.
The Al Smith dinner in New York City raises millions of dollars for Catholic children’s charities every year, and in presidential years it usually draws both major party candidates for a chance to lightly roast one another on stage.
But like so much else in the 2016 presidential election, this year’s dinner took on a more partisan tone than usual, with both candidates cracking jokes that clearly made other attendees uncomfortable.
Donald Trump spoke first (Al Smith, the dinner’s host, joked that if he did not get to go first, Trump would’ve called the event rigged), and was responsible for the most cringe-worthy moment of the night.
Toward the end of his remarks, Trump made several WikiLeaks jokes that veered more toward his stump speech than general humor, including calling Clinton corrupt. Trump’s reference to Clinton having two positions on issues, combined with an allusion to an email published by WikiLeaks in which several staffers joke about their Catholic faith- drew a rain of boos.
“Here she is tonight, in public, pretending not to hate Catholics,” Trump said, as some attendees visibly blanched.
But Trump also delivered perhaps the single best-received joke of the night, in which he claimed to have found proof positive that the media is biased against him.
“Michelle Obama gives a speech and everyone loves it. Its fantastic. They think she’s absolutely great. My wife Melania gives the exact same speech and people get on her case,” Trump said – laughing that he would be in trouble at home for making that joke.
Clinton started her remarks in the event’s self-deprecating tradition – responding to the criticism that she is boring.
“But I’m not boring at all. In fact, I’m the life of every party I attend, and I’ve been to three,” Clinton joked.
The Democratic nominee also landed several barbs at Trump’s expense, saying she was surprised to be speaking second: ”I didn’t think he’d be ok with a peaceful transition of power,” she said.
But Clinton also cut close to the bone with a few jokes about Trump’s wealth, and his relationship with Russia, and his health records.
“But Donald really is as healthy as a horse,” Clinton said. “You know, the one Vladimir Putin rides around on.”