US election: Clinton and Trump trade barbs at Al Smith dinner

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White House rivals Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have poked fun at each other at a charity dinner, a day after their bitter duel on the debate stage.

trump-and-hilaryShe laughed as Mr Trump joked about her well-paid speeches and the FBI investigation into her private email.

But the Republican was booed when he joked that his Democratic opponent hated Roman Catholics.

Opinion polls suggest Mrs Clinton’s lead over Mr Trump has narrowed, less than three weeks before the election.

Just four percentage points now separate the candidates, according to the BBC’s poll tracker.

Americans vote on 8 November to elect a successor to President Barack Obama, a Democrat, as well as members of Congress, currently dominated by the Republicans.

The annual Alfred E Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York is a white-tie gala that every four years features the presidential candidates.

There is a tradition that the rivals stand up and make jokes about each other but this year it comes after one of the most rancorous campaigns in memory.

On Wednesday night in Las Vegas at their final debate, Mr Trump called his Democratic rival a “nasty woman” and they both interrupted each other throughout. They refused to shake hands before or after.

But at the New York event, they briefly put their differences aside and sat just one seat apart, with Cardinal Timothy Dolan between them.

They did not shake hands or make eye contact but when Mr Trump stood up to speak, he gave her a friendly double-pat on her shoulder.

He joked that this crowd – of about 1,500 people – was her biggest audience yet and, in a dig at her Wall St connections, he said it would be unusual for her to be with so many corporate leaders and not get paid.

But when he said she was so corrupt she got booted off the Watergate commission, boos rang out.

And they resurfaced when, in a reference to emails hacked within her campaign team, he said she was “pretending not to hate Catholics”. It was one of the few occasions when the smile left Mrs Clinton’s face.

Perhaps his best line was when he referred in jest to his wife Melania’s plagiarised speech in July, which borrowed from First Lady Michelle Obama.

Some of her jokes…

“I’ve had to listen to Donald Trump for three full debates… I have now stood next to Donald Trump longer than any of his campaign managers.”

“After listening to your speech, I will enjoy hearing [his running mate] Mike Pence deny that you ever gave it.”

“I’m so flattered Donald thought I used some kind of performance enhancer [before the debate]. I did. It’s called preparation.”

“He [Mr Trump] actually sent a car for me tonight. Actually, it was a hearse.”

And his…

“Last night, I called Hillary a nasty woman, but this stuff is all relative. After listening to Hillary rattle on and on and on, I don’t think so badly of Rosie O’Donnell anymore.”

“Now I’m told Hillary went to confession before tonight’s event, but the priest was having a hard time when he asked her about her sins, and she said she couldn’t remember 39 times.”

Then Mrs Clinton stood up and had her chance. “We’ll either have the first female president or the first president who started a Twitter war with Cher,” she said.

Instead of seeing the Statue of Liberty being a beacon of hope, Mr Trump rates her looks as a “four” or “maybe a five” if she loses the torch and tablet, and changes her hair, Mrs Clinton joked.

Image copyright AP Image caption The event raises millions of dollars for poor and needy children Image copyright AFP Image caption They called a truce although some of the jokes were close to the bone

She drew fewer laughs when, in an attempt to mock Mr Trump’s calls for a ban on Muslim immigration, she referred to the current president as a Muslim. Mr Obama is a Christian but conspiracy theorists have sought to portray him as a secret follower of Islam because of his father’s religion at birth.

Conjuring up a Trump White House, Mrs Clinton imagined a reunion of former presidents involving Mr Obama and asked, “How is Barack going to get past the Muslim ban?”

Both candidates were reading from notes but Mrs Clinton poked fun at a recent incident when Mr Trump’s teleprompter broke down at a rally in North Carolina.

Having described Mr Trump as the puppet of Russian President Vladimir Putin during Wednesday’s presidential debate, she suggested he had had trouble using his teleprompter because he was “translating from the original Russian”. (BBC)

 

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