The animosity between Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was on full display at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner Thursday.
The dinner, an event in its 71st year designed to raise money for Catholic charities, is known for allowing a context for candidates to offer light roasts of each other as well as self-deprecation. However, as has been the norm for this presidential election, the two candidates went above and beyond tradition and normal decor.
Clinton and Trump entered the dinner at opposite doors and skipped shaking hands. The rest of the night continued on a downward trend.
Trump spoke first and it was difficult to tell whether his comments were meant to be taken lightly or as blunt attacks against his Democratic counterpart.
The Republican candidate began with a few humorous comments, which received light laughter from the audience, but he eventually set his sights squarely on Clinton.
“Hillary believes that it’s vital to deceive the people by having one public policy and a totally different policy in private,” Trump said, as laughter turned into boos from the audience.
“Here she is tonight, in public, pretending not to hate Catholics,” Trump continued, referencing an e-mail recently leaked by WikiLeaks. In the email, Clinton staffers write about how Catholics are whiners.
The audience sprinkled more boos throughout his speech, as he seemingly attempted to sway voters with a few intentional attacks on Clinton.
Clinton followed after observing Trump’s speech in silence. Her speech, in essence, became a rebuttal.
“It’s amazing I’m up here after Donald. I didn’t think he’d be OK with a peaceful transition of power,” Clinton began in jest, referring to Trump’s recent claims that he might not accept the election results if they were not in his favor.
“After listening to your speech,” she continued, “I will also enjoy listening to Mike Pence deny you ever gave it.”
“Sharing a stage with Donald Trump is like, well, nothing really comes to mind,” Clinton said. “Donald wanted me drug tested before last night’s debate. … I am so flattered that Donald thought I used some sort of performance enhancer. Now, actually, I did. It’s called preparation.”
Clinton’s mood throughout her speech was considerably more light, but the tension in the room could be felt as the animosity between the two candidates was obvious amid a presidential campaign in which both sides have launched numerous insults.
Trump did attempt to lighten the mood at times in his speech, joking about his vow to investigate allegations against Clinton if he were to become president.
“And even tonight, with all of the heated back and forth between my opponent and me at the debate last night, we have proven that we can actually be civil with each other. In fact, just before taking the dais, Hillary accidentally bumped into me, and she very civilly said, ‘Pardon me.’ ”
At the conclusion of the night, it was announced from the stage that Trump and Clinton did indeed shake hands. And, when they weren’t speaking, Cardinal Timothy Dolan sat between them. The visual was not lost, as even in front of their prestigious hosts, the two could not resist viciously jabbing at each other behind feigned smiles.
Cardinal Dolan did offer a glimmer of hope for those hoping for more polite dialogue between the candidates going forward, recalling their comments after he prayed with them.
“Mr. Trump turned to Secretary Clinton and said, ‘You know you are one tough and talented women,” Dolan said. “And she said to him, ‘Donald whatever happens, we need to work together afterward.'”