"Donald had some very solid minutes early on and eventually he crossed the line and took it a little too far," Smith said in an interview on CNN's "New Day." "Hillary, on the other hand, was able to laugh at herself and at the same time not underplay any of the serious things Donald Trump has said or done."
Smith -- who attended the dinner -- noted that some of Trump's jibes drew boos from the crowd
at an event that typically features more comity than conflict, and encourages self-deprecating remarks from its speakers. He said one of Trump's jokes -- which referenced an email published by WikiLeaks that purportedly shows Clinton aides joking about Catholicism -- fell particularly flat.
The white-tie dinner at the Waldorf Astoria is hosted by the archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who sat between Trump and Clinton. Al Smith, a Democrat, was the first Roman Catholic to become a major party nominee for the presidency.
Trump had cracked, "Hillary believes that it's vital to deceive the people by having one public policy and a totally different policy in private...Here she is tonight in public, pretending not to hate Catholics."
"That's a tough crowd to drop that line in front of," Smith said. "To be honest with you, that certainly took the tone in a different direction, and you know, I think ultimately at the end of the day, that made things a lot harder for Hillary when, ultimately, she got the mic -- she had some funny things that she had said, and I don't think they got as many laughs as they could have because the tone in the room had shifted a bit."
"That line in a room full of predominantly Catholics didn't go over well," he added.
Al Smith V is the grandson of Alfred E. Smith, a former governor of New York who and a prominent Catholic politician in the 1920s and 30s, whom President Franklin D. Roosevelt had once dubbed "the happy warrior of the political battlefield." Smith mounted multiple unsuccessful runs for president as a Democrat, alternating between rival and ally of FDR.
Smith V said that "in the beginning of the night it was pretty friendly," and that he had seen Clinton and Trump shake hands. Smith also thanked everyone involved with the dinner for raising money for Catholic charities and Cardinal Dolan for "bringing them together."