On Thursday evening, the two presidential candidates attended what has become a tradition for presidential candidates and president’s alike, the Al Smith Dinner.
The annual event is a fundraiser for Catholic charities, raising money for needy children. It is held in honor of Al Smith, a former New York governor and the first Catholic presidential candidate. It is hosted by the Archbishop of New York.
Typically, in election years, the candidates — and incumbent presidents — attend and each give a speech which is meant to be lighthearted. The event is a roast, and candidates in years past have given speeches with self-deprecating jokes, and some jabs at other luminaries in attendance and even their political opponent.
This year’s dinner was perhaps more anticipated than some of the previous years because of the sheer animosity and ugliness that has overtaken the campaign and because less than 24 hours prior to the event, the candidates had locked horns in one of the most bitter debates in presidential history.
The Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump went first. He started slow as he seemed to go after many of the guests right out of the gate, but he appeared to get his stride as he joked about himself a bit. Perhaps the best joke of the night for Trump was when he said that Michelle Obama is so widely praised when she gives a speech, but when his wife, Melania, gives “the exact same speech,” she is maligned.
The nominee was referring to an incident for which his wife received quite a backlash when it was revealed that a portion of her speech was plagiarized from the First Lady’s speech in 2008. That certainly drew laughter from the crowd and was within the tradition of the event. He also mixed in some jokes about Clinton which drew laughs from the audience and from Clinton herself.
However, shortly after that high, the nominee drifted into uncharted territory as he dug into Clinton for “deceiving” people by having a public and a private view on the same matter. That is when the audience began to boo. Things turned downright hostile after that as Trump launched into his next jokes calling the former Secretary of State “corrupt,” and that she was “pretending to not hate Catholics.”
Trump’s speech was unusual to be sure and the boos were, by all accounts, unprecedented at the event. The clip certainly puts on display the awkwardness of the moment.