Trump, Clinton Mostly Civil at Al Smith Dinner After Fiery Debate

Liz Johnstone and Alex Johnson
Trump, Clinton spar at Alfred E. Smith dinner

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton managed to sit two seats from each from each other and remain — mostly — civil Thursday night at the white-tie Al Smith Dinner, the traditional break from attacks during every presidential campaign cycle.

The dinner — the major fundraiser for the Catholic charities connected to the Archdiocese of New York — has attracted presidential candidates for years, and this year was no different.

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Trump and Clinton didn't appear to acknowledge each other as they arrived to take their seats flanking Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York.

But Trump and Clinton both smiled broadly and laughed at each other's needles. Trump even occasionally laughed at his own jokes.

Much of the joking was nothing out of line with the traditionally barbed remarks the two parties' nominees make every four years — but they took on a dark edge when Trump got serious and and appeared to attack Clinton with serious intent, drawing scattered boos and jeers.

emocratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton (L) and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump shake hands after speaking during the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at Waldorf Astoria October 20, 2016 in New York, New York.
Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

Trump started by noting that he knew he was supposed to begin with a "self-deprecating joke."

"Some people think that might be tough for me," he said to laughter. "The truth is I'm actually a modest person. In fact, people tell me modesty might be my best quality — even better than my temperament."

After all, he said, he was in a room with many church folk, who were inclined to look kindly on "a carpenter who worked for his father."

"I was a carpenter," he added for those who didn't immediately make the connection.

Trump then riffed on themes he brings up often on the campaign trail, such as mocking the size of Clinton's rallies and media bias. He also talked about the personal connection the charitable dinner has for him, saying he attended it with his father as a child.

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Eventually, boos began emerging as Trump dropped the jokes almost entirely.

"Here she is in public, pretending not to hate Catholics," Trump said, referencing an apparent email exposed by WikiLeaks in which a Clinton spokeswoman seemed to joke about Catholics and evangelicals.

Trump also brought up a moment from the debate Wednesday night.

"Last night, I called Hillary a 'nasty woman.' This stuff is all relative. After listening to Hillary rattle on and on, I don't think so badly of Rosie O'Donnell anymore. In fact, I'm actually starting like Rosie a lot," Trump said.

Clinton stuck to the tradition script as she took the dais second. Turning to Trump, she said, "Donald, if at any time you don't like what I say, feel free to stand up and shout 'Wrong!' after I say it."

And diving into the dominant news of the day, she said: "I'm surprised I'm up here at all. I didn't think he'd be OK with a peaceful transition of power."

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