In what has become a longstanding political tradition, President Barack Obama and his rival Mitt Romney are expected to share a stage in New York City for a charity roast a few weeks before election day. But now, objections are being raised by some religious leaders over Obama's appearance. NY1’s Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
Every four years, the Alfred E. Smith dinner is a chance for presidential candidates to lay down their swords and poke fun at politics.
“Michael Bloomberg is here. The mayor recently announced some news, made some news by announcing he’s going to be rewriting the rules and running for a third term which caused Bill Clinton to say, ‘You can do that?’” President Barack Obama said at the dinner in 2008.
“Some people call you the elite. I call you my base,” former President George W. Bush said at the dinner in 2000.
This year’s dinner was supposed to be no different. Both President Obama and presumed Republican nominee Mitt Romney have accepted the invitation to appear at the event Oct. 18. The dinner, which honors Smith, the former governor and first Catholic presidential nominee of a major party, benefits Catholic charities and is organized in part by the New York Archdiocese.
But some Catholic leaders say Obama, who supports abortion rights and gay marriage, shouldn’t be welcome.
Father Frank Pavone, head of the anti-abortion group Priests for Life, said in a statement, “The polite putting aside of differences for a while amounts to a scandal.”
“I can understand why there’s going to be an outrage,” said New York State Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long.
Long said the issue is Obama’s mandate that all employer health care plans cover contraception, even some religious charities.
“Clearly it is challenging religious liberty. And I think that’s where the line has been crossed,” Long said.
The controversy is not a new one. Sen. John Kerry’s stance on abortion, it’s believed, is the reason neither candidate was invited in 2004. It was the same with President Bill Clinton in 1996. But now it's Cardinal Timothy Dolan presiding over the event and while he's clashed publicly with Obama over the contraception mandate, the emphasis is on civility.
“This is not an evening that is about one person’s policies versus another person’s policies. This is not an evening about political differences and partisanship. This is an evening in which we come together for a very good cause,” said Archdiocesan spokesman Joseph Zwilling.