Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton at Al Smith Dinner: The best jokes and jabs

By Scott T. Smith  |  Oct. 21, 2016 at 2:01 AM
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One day after Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had their final debate in Las Vegas, they met again Thursday night for the Al Smith Dinner, a traditional stop for politicians who let loose with comedy roast-style humor directed at themselves and their colleagues.

The event was highly anticipated, especially after a seating chart posted online ahead of time showed Clinton and Trump at the same table, separated only by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who later joked it was "the iciest place on the planet. Where's global warming when you need it?"

A gala white-tie event held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, the charity dinner was emceed by Alfred Smith IV, ex officio board member of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation. He took to the mic and kicked off the humor by recognizing "several dignitaries in the room."

To Democratic New York Mayor Bill De Blasio: "Mr. Mayor, we'd like to apologize. We could not grant your request to sit to the left of everybody."

To the presidential candidates: "Just goes to show you that if you were born into immense wealth or your husband was president, you can accomplish anything."

To former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani: "Mr. Mayor, don't worry. We aimed the lights just right so you'll be in Donald Trump's shadow all night." (Giuliani howled with laughter)

"Gov. Christie was supposed to be here but he got stuck in bridge traffic."

He said the evening's order of speakers was determined backstage with a coin toss and they knew "no matter how the coin toss ended, our next speaker was going to say it was rigged."

"It is historic that the Donald is here tonight. That's right, for the first time the Catholic Church is not the largest tax-exempt land owner here tonight. ... Donald, the microphone is yours ... and it's working."

Donald Trump

"Wow. That was good [drawing laughter from the audience]. Mmmm."

"You know, they say when you do this kind of event you always start out with a self-deprecating joke. Some people say this would be tough for me but, the truth is [laughter] ... True. The truth is, I'm a very modest person. In fact many people tell me that modesty is perhaps my best quality. Even better than my temperament."

"It's great to be here with a thousand 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."

"I have no doubt Hillary is going to laugh a lot tonight. Sometimes even at an appropriate moment."

"And even tonight 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. In fact, just before taking the dais, Hillary accidentally bumped into me and she very civilly said, 'Pardon me.' [The camera switched to Clinton, who was laughing and could be seen nodding and saying "That's a good one. That's a good one."]

"And I very politely replied, 'Let me talk to you about it after I get into office'," which drew some groans followed by "Just kidding, just kidding."

"She said if somehow she gets elected, she wants me to be -- without question -- either her ambassador to Iraq or to Afghanistan. It's my choice."

"This is the first time ever that Hillary is sitting down and speaking to major corporate leaders ... and not getting paid for it."

"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. In fact, I'm really starting to like Rosie a lot."

"I know Hillary met my campaign manager. And I got the chance to meet the people who are working so hard to get her elected. There they are [pointing into the audience]. The heads of NBC, CNN, CBS, ABC. There's The New York Times right over there and The Washington Post. There working overtime. True. True."

"Oh, this one's going to get me in trouble. Not with Hillary! You know the president told me to stop whining. But I really have to say that the media is more biased this year than ever before. You want the proof? 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 people get on her case! I don't get it. I don't know why. [Trump then asked Melania to stand and the crowd cheered her.] Oh, I'm in trouble when I go home tonight. She didn't know about that one. Am I OK [to Melania Trump]? Is it OK? ... Cardinal, please speak to her."

Trump began to lose the crowd when he then started directing sharp political attacks at Clinton, thinly disguised as jokes, kicking off with "Hillary is so corrupt that she got kicked off the Watergate Commission. How corrupt do you have to be to get kicked off the Watergate Commission? Pretty corrupt."

He recovered briefly, getting laughter with "I wasn't sure if Hillary was going to show up tonight because I guess you didn't send her invitation by email. Or maybe you did and she just found out about it through the wonder of Wikileaks."

Then with "Hillary believes that it's vital to deceive the people ... by having one public policy and a totally different policy in private," boos and catcalls began. "That's OK. I don't know who they're angrier at, Hillary, you or I."

"For example ... Here she is tonight, in public, pretending not to hate Catholics." [Loud boos and shouts from the audience]

"Now if some of you haven't noticed, Hillary isn't laughing as much as the rest of us. That's because she knows the jokes and all of the jokes were given to her in advance of the dinner by Donna Brazile."

The boos reached their peak when Trump said: "Everyone knows, of course, Hillary's belief that it takes a village, which only makes sense of course in places like Haiti, where she's taken a number of them."

Several people in the audience shouted at Trump, who said "Thank you!" Dolan leaned over and spoke to Clinton, who was shaking her head and not laughing as she was earlier.

Then with his last Clinton joke line landing with a thud and another chorus of boos, Trump said, "We're having some fun here tonight."

He ended on an up note, lauding the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation for raising $6 million at the dinner and calling for the nation and world to come together.

When emcee Smith retook the podium, he joked to Trump: "As Ronald Reagan would say, 'There you go again.'"

Segueing to Clinton, Smith announced that the dinner had raised $6 million for needy children in the archdiocese. "Let me put that into perspective for you. That will pay for nearly 5 minutes of our next speaker's speech."

Saying she'd endured a tough campaign so far, Smith said Clinton "endured questions about her health. Madame Secretary ... I can't believe all these people said it wasn't presidential to catch pneumonia. Just look at William Henry Harrison."

Hillary Clinton

"This is such a special event that I took a break from my rigorous nap schedule to be here. And as you've already heard, it's a treat for all of you, too, because usually I charge a lot for speeches like this."

"But for me, it was kind of ironic thinking about a fiery populist, Al Smith. If he were here today and saw how much money we've raised for needy children, he'd be very proud And if he saw this magnificent room, full of plutocrats celebrating his legacy, he'd be very confused."

"You [Cardinal Dolan] were criticized for inviting both me and Donald here tonight. And you responded by saying, 'If I only sat down with those who are saints, I'd be taking all my meals alone.' Now, just to be clear, I think the cardinal is saying I'm not eligible for sainthood. But getting through these three debates with Donald has to count as a miracle. [Laughter, applause] So, I guess I'm up against the highest, hardest stained-glass ceiling."

"You do deserve great credit for bringing together two people who've been at each other's throats. Mortal enemies. Bitter foes. I've got to ask: 'How did you get the governor and mayor here together tonight?'" [Ccheers, De Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo laugh and shake hands]

"Now I've got to say there are a lot of friendly faces here in this room, people that I've been privileged to know and work with ... I just want to put you all in a basket of adorables."

"And you look so good in your tuxes ... or as I refer to them -- formal pantsuits."

"And you know because this is a friendly dinner for such a great cause ... Donald, if at any time you don't like what I'm saying, feel free to stand up and shout 'Wrong!' while I'm talking." [Donald and Melania Trump laugh.]

"It's amazing I'm up here after Donald. I didn't think he'd be okay with a peaceful transition of power." [Same reaction from the Trumps, cheers from the crowd]

"And Donald, after listening to your speech, I will also enjoy listening to [Indiana Gov.] Mike Pence deny that you ever gave it."

Clinton said she was glad to be back in New York City, describing it as embodying the "best of America."

"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. Donald looks at the Statue of Liberty and sees a '4'. [Groans, laughter] Maybe a '5' if she loses the torch and tablet and changes her hair."

"Now, I'm going to try my best tonight. But I understand I am not known for my sense of humor. That's why it did take a village to write these jokes."

"People say, and I hear them, I know, they say I'm boring compared to Donald. But I'm not boring at all. In fact, I'm the life of every party I attend ... and I've been to three."

And when the parties get out of hand, as occasionally they do, it's important to have a chaperone who can get everyone home safely. And that is why I picked [Virginia Sen.] Tim Kaine to be my vice president."

"Now, you notice there is no teleprompter here tonight, which is probably smart because maybe you saw Donald dismantle his prompter the other day. And I get that. They're hard to keep up with, and I'm sure it's even even harder when you're translating from the original Russian." [Howls, Donald Trump laughs, but his wife does not].

"Every year this dinner brings together a collection of sensible, committed, mainstream Republicans. Or as we now like to call them: Hillary supporters."

"Now some of my critics, and I hear that too, they think I only say what people want to hear. Well, tonight that is true. And here's exactly what you want to hear: This election will be over very, very soon." [Applause]

Pointing out that, among others, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was present on the dais: "It's a shame he's not speaking tonight. I'm curious to hear what a billionaire has to say." [Groans, Bloomberg laughs].

"And look else at the dais. We've got the Honorable Chuck Schumer, the Honorable Andrew Cuomo, the Honorable Mike Bloomberg, the Honorable Bill de Blasio, the Honorable David Dinkins and so many other wonderful elected officials. And we have Rudy Giuliani. Now, many don't know this but Rudy Giuliani got his start as a prosecutor, going after wealthy New Yorkers who avoided paying taxes. But as the saying goes, 'If you can't beat 'em, go on Fox News and call 'em a genius." [Giuliani was stone-faced.]

"We've now had our third and, thankfully, final debate. Sharing a stage with Donald Trump is like ... well, nothing really come to mind. There is nothing like sharing a stage with Donald Trump. Donald wanted me drug tested before last night's debate. And I tell you, I am so flattered. Donald thought I used some sort of performance enhancer. Now, actually I did. It's called preparation." [Cheers, Donald and Melania Trump both smile, laughing].

"And looking back I've had to listen to Donald for three full debates. And he says I don't have any stamina. That is 4 hours. I have now stood next to Donald Trump longer than any of his campaign managers." [Same reaction from the Trumps].

"Look, I have deep respect for people like [Trump campaign manager] Kellyanne Conway. She's working day and night for Donald and because she's a contractor he's probably not even going to pay her." [Gasps, some boos]

"But I think the good news is that debates finally allowed Republicans to unite around their candidate. The bad news is, it's Mike Pence." [Some gasps, silence}

"And it's been a long, long campaign. That should be one of our highest priorities -- shortening the campaigns." [General applause, Trump nods in agreement].

"And whoever wins this election, the outcome will be historic. We'll either have the first female president or the first president who started a Twitter war with Cher."

"And if Donald does win, it will be awkward at the annual Presidents' Day photo, when all the former presidents gather at the White House. And not just with Bill. How is Barack going to get past the Muslim ban?"

"Republicans in particular seem frustrated with their nominee. Paul Ryan told Republican members of the House: 'You don't have to support the top of the ticket, don't worry about anyone but yourself. Just do what's in your own best interest.' So I guess Donald really has unified his party around his core philosophy. And I don't understand their unhappiness. They say Donald doesn't have any policies, he has no policies, I keep hearing that. I'd actually like to defend him on this. Donald has issues. Serious issues. Really, really serious issues." [Camera shows Schumer laughing.]

"Donald has been very concerned about my health. Very concerned. He actually sent a car to bring me here tonight. Actually, it was a hearse."

"Donald really is as healthy as a horse. You know, the one [Russian President] Vladimir Putin rides around on." [Laughter, shouts from the audience]

"Donald has attacked me for life in public service. And I didn't get that at first, I kind of get it now. As he told Howard Stern, he doesn't like it when women have been around for more than 35 years."

"But Donald we have so much more in common than actually you may realize. For example, I try to inspire young people by showing them that through resilience and hard work that anything is possible. And you're doing the same. A third-grade teacher told me that one of her students refused to turn in his homework because it was 'under audit'."

"And here's another similarity. The Republican National Committee isn't spending a dime to help either one of us.

"So, tonight let's embrace the spirit of the evening, remember what unites us and just rip on [Texas Sen.] Ted Cruz."

Clinton ended her remarks by saying what's at stake in this election "is not funny," adding that what's important about the evening is "not the jokes we tell but the legacy we carry forward." She reminded the audience of the charity dinner namesake's run for president.

"When I think about what Al Smith [four-time New York governor and 1928 Democratic nominee for president] went though, it's important to just reflect just how groundbreaking it was for him, a Catholic, to be my party's nominee for president. Don't forget -- school boards sent home letters with children saying that if Al Smith was elected president, you will not be allowed to have or read a Bible. Voters were told that he would annul Protestant marriages. And I saw a story recently that said people even claimed the Holland Tunnel was a secret passageway to connect Rome and America, to help the pope run our country. Those appeals, appeals to fear and division can cause us to treat each other as 'the other.' Rhetoric like that makes it harder for us to see each other to respect each other to listen to each other. And certainly a lot harder to love our neighbor as ourselves. I believe how we treat others is the highest expression of faith and of service."

Emcee Al Smith IV returned to the podium, saying: "An observation: I did see the candidates reach across a great divide tonight ... and shake hands. I think we should nominate Cardinal Dolan for a Nobel Peace Prize, what do you think?"

Dolan took the podium to give the benediction, and coughed, saying "Pardon my congestion and cough, I'm afraid I'm coming down with a cold. Which is completely understandable given that for the last two hours I've had a seat between our two candidates in what's probably the iciest place on the planet. Where is global warming when you need it?" [Laughter]

Trump left with his wife soon after the event ended, while Clinton remained behind to talk with guests, among them Schumer, Yahoo news anchor Katie Couric and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

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