NEW YORK: Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton took their acrimonious presidential contest to a charity dinner, where Trump drew boos from the well-heeled audience when his jokes veered well into the jagged terrain of his campaign speeches.
The candidates shared the stage on Thursday night at an annual white-tie dinner in New York City that raises money for needy children and typically offers White House hopefuls a respite from election tensions.
Trump, lagging Clinton in national opinion polls, had slugged it out with his rival on Wednesday night at their third and final presidential debate before the Nov 8 election. He drew sharp rebukes from Democrats and many in his own party for saying during the debate that he thinks the election is being rigged and so he will not commit yet to accepting the outcome.
Alfred Smith V, whose family hosts the dinner named after the state’s former governor, Alfred E. Smith, called Thursday’s dinner “one for the record books” and said it echoed the Las Vegas debate.
“Donald had some very solid minutes early on and eventually he crossed the line and took it a little too far,” he told CNN on Friday. “Hillary, on the other hand, was able to laugh at herself and at the same time not underplay any of the serious things that Donald Trump has said or done.”
Both the presidential candidates call New York their home but the crowd of financiers and political and media figures was largely in Clinton’s court.
Trump spoke first and set the room on edge with bitter jabs, drawing boos with his label of Clinton, a former secretary of state, as “corrupt”. “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,” 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 Trump.
Clinton, whose remarks elicited some heckling but mostly polite applause, recalled Trump’s past derogatory remarks about women’s looks and “ranking” them on appearance.
“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,” 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,” said Clinton, the first woman to be nominated for president by a major US political party. The president elected on Nov 8 will be the 45th in US history.
Trump, a New York real estate magnate, and Clinton, a former US senator from the state, were separated on the dais by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York.
As the dinner ended, they shook hands – a gesture they notably avoided at Wednesday’s debate.
Dolan said he was “kinda nervous” heading into the event and was pleased the candidates shared courteous private remarks.
“After the little prayer, Mr Trump turned to Secretary Clinton and said, ‘You are one tough and talented woman’,” Dolan told NBC’s “Today” show on Friday.
He conceded the humour was less forgiving. “There were some boos last night,” he said.
In one of the more jarring comments of the benefit, which raised $6 million for Catholic charities supporting children, Trump said Clinton was “pretending not to hate Catholics”.