US presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton appeared together Thursday night (Oct. 20) at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation charity dinner at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City. Also in attendance was New York’s cardinal Timothy Dolan.
The dinner, which benefits Roman Catholic charities, is held in the final two weeks of a presidential campaign, and includes remarks delivered by the candidates. And they generally follow a set of unspoken rules: keep it light, tell some jokes, don’t campaign too hard—Americans have had enough.
Needless to say, Trump didn’t get the memo. That, or he balled it up and threw it in the trash. What started out as a solidly in-line speech replete with a few well-executed and surprisingly un-insecure jokes—including a particularly good one about supposed media bias:
“Michelle Obama gives a speech and everyone loves it, it’s fantastic. They think she’s absolutely great. My wife Melania gives the exact same speech, and people get on her case!”
But things quickly took a weird turn. Soon enough, Trump was calling Clinton “so corrupt,” which inspired boos and hisses from fellow dinner attendees. He stepped over a line, however, with an incredibly bizarre line about Clinton’s relationship with the Church: “Here she is, pretending not to hate Catholics.”
“Finish!” attendees shouted, as he clumsily concluded the remarks.
Clinton then took the stage, quipping, “I didn’t think he’d be okay with a peaceful transition of power.”
She went on to extol Pope Francis and quote Jesuit theology between jokes—drawing a stark contrast with Trump’s speech, which was light on appeals to Catholic voters. Regarding Trump’s specific comments about her thoughts on the Church, she added, “After listening to your speech, I will also enjoy listening to Mike Pence deny you ever made it.”