Donald Trump has used a speech at a charity dinner to accuse the Democratic Party of anti-Catholic bigotry.
Four years after Mr Trump broke with convention to use the Alfred E Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner to level an attack at his then rival Hillary Clinton, rather than poke fun at himself, he again used the event to denounce the Democrats.
Mr Trump started his prerecorded remarks that were streamed to praise the Catholic Church for its role in the city of New York and in the nation beyond.
“This organisation’s incredible tradition of Catholic charity exemplifies the very best, not only of this city, but of this country,” he said.
Yet, he then used the speech to attack China over the coronavirus, which has killed more than 200,000 Americans, a death toll many critics say Mr Trump is at least partly responsible for, and then claim anti-Catholic bias “predominates” in the Democratic Party.
Mr Trump, defending his decision to nominate law professor and conservative Catholic Amy Coney Barrett to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, insisted the White House would stand by her as she went through the nominating process.
“We will not stand for any attacks against judge Barrett’s faith,” he said.
“Anti-Catholic bigotry has absolutely no place in the United States of America.”
One of the ironies of Mr Trump’s comments was that while he claimed he knew about the Catholic faith because he once lived next to a “magnificent Catholic Church”, Democratic candidate Joe Biden is from a family of Irish-American Catholics.
In his remarks to the dinner, Mr Biden said his faith had helped him when he had suffered loss in his life – his first wife, a daughter and his eldest son.
“I know for me, my Catholic faith has helped me through the darkness, as I’ve had to bury pieces of my soul into the earth, and eventually found purpose to live a life worthy of those I lost,” he said.
“And throughout my life and public service. I’ve been guided by the tenets of Catholic social doctrine … what you do to the least among us, you do to me. We have an obligation to one another. We cannot serve ourselves at the expense of others.”
President @realDonaldTrump at the Al Smith Dinner: We are defending the sacred Right to Life pic.twitter.com/NSXBi9iC3c
— Team Trump (Text VOTE to 88022) (@TeamTrump) October 1, 2020
For many years the dinner, which benefits Catholic charities and is often one of the final opportunities for presidential candidates to share a stage before the election, saw candidates make jokes about themselves .
In 2008, John McCain joked that he had fired his entire campaign team. “All of their positions will now be held by a man named Joe the Plumber,” he cracked.
In turn, Barack Obama said: “John McCain is onto something. There was a point in my life when I started palling around with a pretty ugly crowd, I’ve got to be honest. These guys were serious deadbeats; they were lowlifes; they were unrepentant no-good punks. That’s right: I’ve been a member of the United States Senate.”
During the 2016 dinner, Mr Trump displayed the charm of neither, and when he attacked Ms Clinton he received boos.
“I wasn’t really sure if Hillary was going to be here 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,” he said.
“We’ve learned so much from WikiLeaks. For example, Hillary believes that it is vital to deceive the people by having one public policy and a totally different policy in private.”
Ms Clinton was also rather pointed.
“Donald looks at the Statue of Liberty and sees a 4 – maybe a 5 if she loses the torch and tablet and changes her hair.”