US elections

Grim Biden, Trump take fun out of legendary NY political dinner

Agence France-Presse
Grim Biden, Trump take fun out of legendary NY political dinner

(COMBO) This combination of pictures created on September 24, 2019 shows a file photo taken on September 12, 2019 of Democratic presidential hopeful Former Vice President Joe Biden at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas,and US President Donald Trump during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, September 20, 2019. - Growing numbers of Democrats are calling for the impeachment of US President Donald Trump over allegations that he sought political dirt on his potential 2020 presidential rival, Joe Biden.The political scandal stems from a July 25, 2019 telephone call between Trump and Ukraine's newly elected President Volodymyr Zelensky, a former comedian who ran for office as an anti-corruption crusader and reformer. Trump has acknowledged urging Zelensky during the call to investigate the business dealings in Ukraine of Hunter Biden, the son of Joe Biden, who is leading Trump in 2020 election polls. (Photos by Robyn BECK and SAUL LOEB / AFP)


Every 4 years, the event traditionally provides a stage for presidential candidates to appear on stage together for a brief truce

President Donald Trump and challenger Joe Biden couldn’t eat and didn’t tell a single joke: welcome to Thursday’s grim 2020 version of the legendary annual – and usually laughter-filled – Al Smith Dinner.

For decades, the dinner organized by the Catholic Church in New York has brought presidential candidates to join a throng of wealthy and powerful guests raising money for charity – and raising the roof with jokes.

This year, COVID-19 restrictions meant that Trump and Biden appeared only virtually. Their speeches were delivered by video and contained no punch lines.

“I know there is disappointment that the dinner tonight couldn’t continue as normal, for us to sit together and put politics aside for the night,” Biden, himself a Catholic, said.

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“These are difficult times,” he said, painting a picture of tragic coronavirus losses around the country, where more than 200,000 Americans have died.

Trump’s video followed. It was equally somber but even more openly political, with several direct appeals to Catholic voters to vote for him.

“I hope you remember that on November 3rd,” he said of claims that he secured extra funding for Catholic-run schools.

Biden is leading Trump in every significant national poll, but the Republican president’s claims to be the potential victim of mass fraud is raising concerns that he will not recognize the election’s results and stand down if he loses.

It was left to Cardinal Timothy Nolan, archbishop of New York, to add a hint of levity, quipping on the livestream after the two rivals had finished: “Am I mistaken or did we just see a rather peaceful transition – a transition of the microphone?”

Named in honor of a popular New York governor who made the first, but failed, presidential run by a Roman Catholic in 1928, the Alfred E.  Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner has been an institution since the 1960s. Every 4 years, the event has traditionally provided a stage for presidential candidates to appear on stage together for a brief truce. –

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