The Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner was held Thursday, October 20, 2016, at the prestigious Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton shared the stage for the last time before the November presidential election. The mood was one of general levity, with both candidates giving carefully prepared speeches.
Donald Trump showed that his sense of humor wasn’t quite the norm. He started his speech with some self-deprecating humor, including a joke about the size of his hands, but quickly started in with some jokes at Hillary’s expense.
One of his better-received jokes of the evening was this light jab.
“Just before taking the dais, Hillary accidentally bumped into me. And she very civilly said, ‘Pardon me.’ And I very politely replied, “Let me talk to you about that after I get into office.'”
Another zinger poked fun at her paid Wall Street speeches, saying, “This is the first time ever, ever, that Hillary is sitting down and speaking to major corporate leaders and not getting paid for it.”
Another joke that is sure to be repeated around the water cooler was his joke about the “biased” media working against him and his wife, saying, “You want the proof? Michelle Obama gives a speech, and everyone loves it. My wife, Melania, gives the exact same speech and people get on her case.”
After that, Trump’s speech spiraled into less of a roast and comedy speech than a rant against Mrs. Clinton. Several off-color jokes about her supposed corruption and WikiLeaks drew boos and jeers from the crowd. The crowd on the dais behind Donald expressed shock and dismay at each escalating remark by Trump. By the time he began his closing remarks, Mr. Trump was being openly jeered and booed at nearly every remark.
Hillary Clinton took the stage and quickly won the room to her side, starting with a joke about the media’s concern about her health, quipping, “I took a break from my rigorous nap schedule to be here.”
That’s not to say that Mrs. Clinton didn’t take the opportunity to throw her own jabs at Donald Trump while she had the microphone. She told Donald Trump that she enjoyed listening to his speech, but would enjoy it even more when she heard Republican vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence deny that he ever gave it.
In another barb tossed at Mr. Trump, Hillary said, “Come to think of it, it’s amazing that I’m up here after Donald. I didn’t think he’d be okay with a peaceful transition of power.”
She spoke of the Statue of Liberty, saying, “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 continued with a not so subtle dig at Trump, saying, “Donald sees the Statue of Liberty and sees a four. Maybe a five if she loses the torch and tablet and changes her hair.”
Hillary continued to captivate the attending members of the New York high society, drawing applause and laughter, and clearly keeping the room on her side. She did veer off of the comedic path, spending time to speak somberly against cultivating an atmosphere of fear, saying, “…those appeals, appeals to fear and division, can cause us to treat each other as, ‘the other’,” before closing for the night.
The Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner was started in 1945 and is held every four years on the third Thursday in October of the election year. Hosted by the archbishop of New York, the dinner raises funds for the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation. The Foundation’s goal is to support not-for-profit organizations focused on neglected and abused children across the country.
[Featured Image by Frank Franklin II/AP Images]