- Associated Press - Thursday, October 2, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - Mayor Bill de Blasio could not escape the wrath of the groundhog at an annual Roman Catholic charity dinner in Manhattan attended by luminaries from politics, finance and the media.

The mayor’s mishap with a groundhog that died after it slipped from his grasp at a Groundhog Day ceremony last month became fodder for jokes at the 69th annual Alfred E. Smith dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in midtown Wednesday night.

The event raises money for various charities and is known for its humor, often at the expense of the politicians that attend. The dinner is named after Alfred E. Smith, a four-term Democratic governor of New York who was the first Catholic to run for president in 1928.

His great-grandson, Al Smith IV, started off the festivities by alluding to the height difference between the towering de Blasio and his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg.

“Having the mayor here means one thing, the city’s groundhogs are safe, but if Bloomberg were still in office the groundhog would not have fallen so far,” joked Smith.

Keynote speaker and broadcaster Charlie Rose explained that Fox News host and “Killing Patton” author Bill O’Reilly wasn’t able to attend because he was “out pushing his new book ‘Killing Patton’ and the next one he’s calling ‘Killing Groundhog’ and we know where he’s going for his research.”

Kenneth Langone, a co-founder of Home Depot and one of the major supporters of the restoration of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, was given the Happy Warrior award. In return, Langone skewered the rotund Timothy Cardinal Dolan by giving him an oversized Home Depot apron, saying he’d set him up with diet guru Jenny Craig.

Even the city’s police commissioner, William Bratton, was targeted by Langone’s wit.

“What a crowd, although I don’t see the person in charge of the NYPD up here tonight, Al Sharpton,” quipped Langone. Sharpton was having his 60th birthday party around the corner at the Four Seasons Hotel on the same night.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger also attended the black-tie affair.

Last year comedian Stephen Colbert was the guest speaker. In 2012, President Barack Obama and rival Mitt Romney traded jabs at the event during the heated presidential contest.

Organizers said Wednesday night’s event raised at least $2.9 million.

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