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NEW YORK (AP) — The annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, a white-tie gala in New York that is often the last time the two presidential nominees share a stage before Election Day, is traditionally a time when campaign hostilities are set aside.
Not this year.
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton traded sharp barbs and brutal takedowns Thursday, the night after their final debate, with many in the well-heeled crowd turning on the Republican nominee midway through his remarks and showering him with jeers.
Trump, who had drawn big laughs earlier in the speech, appeared to lose the room as he repeatedly dug in with caustic swipes at Clinton, drawing rare boos at a charity event meant to raise money for impoverished children throughout New York.
He appeared to straddle the line when he talked about how “listening to Hillary rattle on and rattle on” has made him better appreciate his longtime nemesis Rosie O’Donnell. But he then seemed to cross it when he referred to her as “corrupt” during a lengthy riff on the FBI’s investigation into her use of a private email server as secretary of state.
“Hillary is so corrupt she got kicked off the Watergate Commission. How corrupt do you have to be to get kicked off the Watergate Commission? Pretty corrupt,” he said to loud boos and at least one call demanding he get off the stage.
He then almost appeared to segue into the standard attack lines of his rally speeches, setting aside jokes to bring up material contained in hacked Clinton campaign emails.
“Hillary believes that it’s vital to deceive the people by having one public policy and a totally different policy in private,” he said to growing jeers. “Here she is tonight, in public, pretending not to hate Catholics.”
Clinton also veered into personal digs, making one joke in which she said the Statue of Liberty, for most Americans, represents a symbol of hope for immigrants.
“Donald looks at the Statue of Liberty and sees a ‘4,’” Clinton joked. “Maybe a ‘5’ if she loses the torch and tablet and changes her hair.”
Trump and Clinton sat one seat apart for the evening, with New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan acting as the only buffer.