Exchange of barbs continues at charity dinner

During the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York on Thursday, Mrs Clinton and Mr Trump sat just a seat apart, separated by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York. The annual event, which raises money for needy children, t
During the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York on Thursday, Mrs Clinton and Mr Trump sat just a seat apart, separated by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York. The annual event, which raises money for needy children, typically offers presidential hopefuls a respite from the tension of the campaign trail - but it was not to be this year.PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK • Presidential campaign tensions seeped into a high-profile charity dinner as Mr Donald Trump joked about sending Mrs Hillary Clinton to prison, while she alluded to Mr Trump's statements about women by estimating how he might rate the Statue of Liberty's attractiveness - a four, maybe a five.

The candidates shared the stage at a formal dinner on Thursday in New York City named after the state's former governor, Mr Alfred E. Smith, less than 24 hours after finishing their third and final presidential debate in Las Vegas.

The annual event, which raises money for needy children, typically offers presidential hopefuls a respite from the tension of the campaign trail.

But Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton opted to instead trade sharpened barbs that reflected the acrimony of the 2016 White House campaign.

Mr Trump spoke first and set the room on edge with bitter jabs at his rival, with his labelling of Mrs Clinton as "corrupt" drawing boos.

"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 to each other," Mr Trump said. "In fact, 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'," said Mr Trump, a Republican whose supporters often chant "Lock her up" at rallies.

PUNCHLINES

WHAT DONALD TRUMP SAID

BIG DEAL

It's great to be here with 1,000 wonderful people. Or, as I call it, a small, intimate dinner with some friends. Or, as Hillary calls it, her largest crowd of the season.

A FIRST FOR HILLARY

One of the things I noticed tonight - and I've known Hillary a long time - is that this is the first time ever, ever, that Hillary is sitting down and speaking to major corporate leaders and not getting paid for it.

SAME SPEECH, DIFFERENT REACTIONS

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 and people get on her case! And I don't get it!

WHAT HILLARY CLINTON SAID

TRUMP'S WAY OF LOOKING

People look at the Statue of Liberty and they see a proud symbol of our history as a nation of immigrants... 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.

HARD TO KEEP UP

Now, you notice there is no teleprompter tonight, which is probably smart because maybe you saw Donald dismantle his prompter the other day. They're hard to keep up with. And I'm sure it's harder when you're translating from the original Russian.

WELL-PREPARED

Donald wanted me drug-tested before last night's debate. And look, I am so flattered that Donald thought I used some sort of performance enhancer. Now, actually I did. It's called preparation.

Mrs Clinton, whose remarks elicited both polite applause and derision, riffed off Mr Trump's derogatory remarks about women's appearances, such as joking in a 2002 radio interview that they become less attractive after age 35.

"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," Mrs Clinton said of the New York City landmark.

"Come to think of it, you know what would be a good number for a woman? 45," Mrs Clinton said. The president elected on Nov 8 will be the 45th in United States history.

In a nod to tradition usually followed at the event, Mrs Clinton began her speech with a light dig at herself. "I took a break from my rigorous nap schedule to be here," the Democrat said, alluding to the many times Mr Trump has mocked her for supposedly lacking stamina.

"You're lucky. Usually, I charge a lot for speeches like this," she told the audience, referring to the astronomical speaking fees the Clintons charged after leaving office.

Mr Trump's attempts at humour mostly lacked the self-deprecation. And when he tried to get laughs at his own expense, the brunt of the joke fell on his wife Melania.

"Michelle Obama gives a speech and everyone loves it. It's fantastic," he said. "My wife Melania gives the exact same speech and people get on her case!"

The reference was to a speech Melania gave, in which she appropriated inspirational words spoken by Mrs Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton sat just a seat apart on the dais, separated by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York. At the conclusion of the event, they shook hands - a gesture they avoided at Wednesday's debate.

But the tone of both candidates' remarks was a departure from the past, when political figures and presidential candidates had stuck to a largely self-deprecating and good-natured brand of humour.

At one point at the event, which raised US$6 million (S$8.3 million) for Catholic charities supporting children, Mr Trump said Mrs Clinton was "pretending not to hate Catholics". He was referring to the apparently hacked personal e-mails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, published by Wikileaks, which show Clinton employees criticising high-profile figures for embracing Catholicism as the most "politically acceptable" of socially conservative religions.

Mr Alfred Smith IV, the evening's host, perhaps best reflected the tension in the room, and the campaign, in his introductory remarks.

"This has been a campaign for the history books," he said. "It has also been a campaign for the psychiatry books."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 22, 2016, with the headline 'Exchange of barbs continues at charity dinner'. Print Edition | Subscribe