President Trump made an explicit appeal for Catholic votes Thursday evening while claiming anti-Catholic bigotry “predominates” the Democratic Party.
Trump delivered the broadside remotely in pre-taped remarks streamed into the Archdiocese of New York’s Al Smith 75th annual fundraiser — a traditional dinner that was turned into an unprecedented virtual event because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump labeled the Democratic Party as anti-Catholic just moments after his Democratic rival for the presidency, former Vice President Joe Biden, a Catholic, spoke.
Trump praised former New York Gov. Al Smith, a Democrat and first Catholic to run for president as a “happy warrior” who battled “anti-Catholic prejudice that you see even today coming from the Democrat Party.”
Trump, a Republican who is locked in a tough re-election battle and trailing in national and many battleground polls, repeated his Democrats are anti-Catholic accusation while discussing his nomination of federal appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a Catholic, to the Supreme Court.
“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. It predominates in the Democrat Party and we must do something immediately about it — like a Republican win. And let’s make it a really big one.”
Trump then brought up the hot-button issue of abortion. The Catholic Church opposes abortion.
Like the church, he told listeners that he’s a “defender of the sacred right to life.”
“Remember that when you vote,” Trump said. “That’s so important to the Supreme Court.”
Biden and the Democratic Party support a woman’s legal right to an abortion –enshrined in the 1973 Supreme Court Roe vs. Wade ruling. But anti-abortion activists hope that the appointment of more conservative-minded judges like Barrett might chip away, if not repeal, the right to an abortion.
“Every child — born and unborn — is made in the holy image of God,” Trump said.
Trump also boasted that he helped deliver federal funds to aid parochial schools.
“I hope you remember that on November 3,” Trump said.
Trump, of course, praised the work of the Catholic Church and the “grit” of New Yorkers who endured the worst of the COVID-outbreak. The White House released excerpts of his remarks earlier Thursday that focused on these aspects of his speech — not the attacks on Democrats.
Trump accepted the invitation to speak at the Al Smith dinner earlier this week, while Biden only confirmed he would give remarks late Thursday afternoon.
By comparison, Biden’s speech was personal and more genteel. He steered away from discussing abortion or Barrett’s nomination.
Instead, he discussed how his Catholic faith “helped me through the darkness” — bringing up his late son, Beau, who died in 2015 of cancer.
Biden spoke of Catholicism focusing on helping others.
He chatted about a “kid from Scranton” having an opportunity to meet Pope Francis.
Biden said America is going through difficult times — a pandemic, a recession and a racial crisis.
He, like, Trump, said America will bounce back.
“The American people don’t give up,” Biden said.
The presidential candidates are customarily expected to lightly roast each other — as well as themselves — in their speeches for the Catholic Charities event. But neither candidate did so during a grim time.
It was left to Cardinal Timothy Dolan to provide the entertainment.
Kicking off the event, Dolan said no one present remembers the 1928 race for president when Smith was the Democratic nominee “except for Joe Biden” — a reference to Biden’s age — 77 .
Dolan also said “the Alfred E. Smith Foundation, a charitable, tax-exempt – President Trump knows what that means” — a reference to Trump’s personal tax and charitable foundation controversies.
He also joked about a “peaceful transition” of the microphone from Biden to Trump — referencing the president’s constant interruptions at Tuesday’s debate.
“See Mr. President, that wasn’t so hard was it?” Dolan said.