Clinton and Trump trade political barbs for jokes at fundraising dinner

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both attending the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, where tradition dictates that the candidates deliver humorous remarks poking fun at each other and themselves, a jovial custom that seems hard to envision amid such an ugly campaign.

Trump's comments didn't always go over well with the crowd, getting more than a few boos

Clinton compares her health with Trump's

6 years ago
Duration 1:28
Clinton compares her health with Trumps

In an evening meant for laughs, Donald Trump managed to elicit a few boos.

Both presidential candidates gave what were supposed to be lighthearted speeches at the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner on Thursday.

Trump spoke first and his early remarks took jovial aim at his opponent.

After suggesting that he's known for his modesty, Trump joked that the gathering is Clinton's "largest crowd of the season."

He later took a shot at the controversy surrounding her use of a private email server as secretary of state, saying that after she bumped into him, she'd said, "pardon me."

Clinton immediately got the joke and tossed her head back to laugh.

But, he started to lose the crowd when he crossed the line from jokes to deeply personal insults aimed at rival Clinton.

Not an audience favourite

6 years ago
Duration 2:00
Not all of Trump’s jokes were a hit with the crowd

Trump was repeatedly booed when he described Clinton as corrupt and latched onto information contained in hacked emails from her staff. That included a hit on Clinton for "pretending" not to hate Catholics as she sits at a Catholic charity event.

When Clinton took the stage, she didn't hold back

Clinton joked that if Trump didn't like what she was saying, then he could "shout 'wrong."' She added that she was surprised Trump let her go second because "I didn't think he'd be OK with a peaceful transition of power." And she said Trump "looks at the Statue of Liberty and sees a four."

Clinton joked, "After listening to your speech, I will also look forward to listening to Mike Pence deny that you ever said it."

Clinton also took some shots at herself. She opened by saying she had taken "a break from my rigorous nap schedule to be here."

Throughout the evening, the political opponents had just one seat between them, filled by Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

Before the fundraiser began, organizers had high hopes the candidates could keep it civil.

Disagreements on the ticket

6 years ago
Duration 0:28
Clinton jokes about the differences between Trump and his running mate

'Good humour and civility'

"I certainly expect that the dinner will be what it's always been: an opportunity for two candidates to put aside partisan politics for the evening," said Joseph Zwilling, the spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, which hosts the dinner. "I anticipate that we will have good humour and civility that this dinner has been always been known for."

The unprecedentedly bitter campaign between Clinton and Trump could threaten the ecumenical goodwill that has defined previous roasts. Since 1960, at least one of the major party nominees has appeared at nearly every election year dinner, which is traditionally the last time the nominees share a stage before voters go to the polls.

Four years ago, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney set aside their differences to trade (mostly) warm jokes. Romney, scanning the well-heeled crowd in the gilded Waldorf-Astoria ballroom, joked that the event's white-tie attire finally gave him a chance to publicly don what "Ann and I wear around the house."

Trouble at home

6 years ago
Duration 0:34
Trump compares his wife with Michelle Obama

Obama, meanwhile, used his speech that year to look ahead to an upcoming debate on foreign policy, previewing his argument by saying "Spoiler alert: we got Bin Laden."

The evening might feel familiar to Trump, who infamously glowered through Obama's jokes at his expense during the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner and is not known for being self-deprecating.

Last weekend, he tweeted that he did not appreciate the Saturday Night Live'portrayal of him in a sendup of the candidates' performances in the second presidential debate.

This is the first time that both party's nominees hail from New York State as a crowd of about 1,500 gathers for the event, held each October. Attendees pay between $3,000 and $15,000 US to attend the dinner, which raises about $5 million to provide services for impoverished children, Zwilling said.

The dinner is named after the former New York governor, who was the first Catholic to receive a major party nomination for president when he unsuccessfully ran in 1928. And fittingly for an event named after a man nicknamed The Happy Warrior, the occasion has produced dozens of memorable presidential jokes.

With files from CBC News