Donald Trump tends to leave a mark on whatever he does, even when all he is supposed to do is tell jokes. The US Republican candidate was booed at a New York charity event at which presidential nominees usually leave behind the bitterness of the campaign trail, poke fun at each other and, as is the tradition, themselves. No one has ever been booed at this event. Trump was.
Speaking first, Trump kicked off with a few mildly self-deprecating riffs, joking that he was a modest person and that no one expected him to make fun of himself. He got laughs for his best joke of the night when he spoke about his wife Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican convention.
“Michelle Obama gives a speech and everyone loves it, and then Melania gives the exact same speech and people get on her case,” he said. Parts of Melania’s convention speech were lifted from a speech the First Lady gave in 2008.
But Trump, or his joke writers, were clearly not in the mood to go soft or have fun. “She got kicked off the Watergate commission. How corrupt do you have to be to get kicked off the Watergate commission? Pretty corrupt,” he said, getting a frosty response from the well-heeled guests at the white-tie event.
And then he ploughed on. “Hillary believes it's vital to deceive the people by having one public policy. And a totally different policy in private. That's okay,” he said, to boos from the crowd. “I don't know who they're angry at, Hillary, you or I?”
“For example, here she is tonight in public, pretending not to hate Catholics,” he said to more boos. This was a reference to remarks exchanged by members of the Clinton campaign in one of John Podesta’s hacked email released by WikiLeaks.
The annual charity event is held in the memory of Alfred E Smith who in 1928 became the first Catholic to run for the White House. But the first Catholic elected was John F Kennedy.
Clinton, when her turn came, was cutting as well, but she was nowhere near as harsh as her Republican rival. She poked Trump on his tendency to rate women on a scale of 10. “People look at the Statue of Liberty and they see a proud symbol of our history as a nation of immigrants, a beacon of hope for people around the world,” she said. “Donald looks at the Statue of Liberty and sees a ‘four’. Maybe a ‘five’ — if she loses the torch and tablet and changes her hair.”
And she couldn’t not remind him, and the audience, of his admiration for the Russian president. Referring to the back and forth between herself and Trump on health, she said, “Donald really is as healthy as a horse. You know, the one Vladimir Putin rides around on.”
At the third and final debate on Wednesday, Clinton had called Trump a “puppet” of Putin.
Clinton had some good ones for herself — talking about herself being boring and humourless and also charging heavily for speaking at events like the charity.
There was speculation if the two would acknowledge each other or shake hands, which they didn’t in their previous two appearances on the same stage — the debates. They did.