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.
“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. – Rappler.com
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