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Trump crosses the line as gala meal with Clinton turns bitter

US presidential candidate Donald Trump and his Democrat rival Hillary Clinton have been trading jocular barbs at a charity dinner in New York. However, for some, Trump's gags went too far.

The presidential contenders - who had squared off in their last presidential debate just 24 hours earlier - were seated only one place apart, with only New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan between them.

Both were present for the Al Smith Dinner, which raises money for needy children in the Roman Catholic archdiocese of New York.

Trump enjoyed some big laughs early in the speech, even from Clinton, when he joked that he had proof the media was corrupt.

The Republican candidate remarked that newspapers had given rave reviews to a speech by First Lady Michelle Obama.  "They think she's absolutely great," he said. "My wife Melania gives the exact same speech, and people get on her case," he said, to a response of whoops and laughter.  The speech by Trump's wife was later found to have been plagiarized, with much of its content being near-identical.

Boos and jeers

However, the 70-year-old appeared to go too far when he referred to Clinton as "corrupt," during a lengthy ribbing about the FBI investigation into her use of a private email server.

"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, amid boos and groans from many of those present at the dinner, at which campaign differences are traditionally put to one side.

"Hillary believes that it's vital to deceive the people by having one public policy and a totally different policy in private," he said, amid growing jeers. "Here she is tonight, in public, pretending not to hate Catholics."

Russian horseplay

Clinton was more cautious and self-deprecating, joking that she had taken a break from her "rigorous nap schedule" to be present, riffing on Trump's contention that she lacks energy. "Usually, I charge a lot for speeches like this," she also quipped. 

However, Clinton was also able to deliver some personal digs to Trump, one being about alleged possible Russian influences on his campaign, and his apparent affinity with President Vladimir Putin.

"Donald really is as healthy as a horse. You know, the one Vladimir Putin rides around," said Clinton.

The dinner is named after former New York governor Al Smith, who was the first Catholic to receive a major party nomination for president, running in 1928.

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