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Obama on Matthews: ‘Four years ago, I gave him a thrill up his leg. This time around, I gave him a stroke’

FNC’s Roger Ailes sits behind Pres. Obama, Gov. Romney and Cardinal Dolan at annual Al Smith dinner.

Pres. Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney set aside their political differences for a few minutes to poke fun at themselves, at each other, and at the media, at the annual Al Smith dinner last night in New York City. But the politicians weren’t the only ones to break bread with their rivals at the event, which this TVNewser attended: media executives and personalities from competing networks mingled over dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria.

The candidates, who sat on either side of Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the New York Catholic Archdiocese, were flanked on the dais by some of the television industry’s most famous faces. Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes sat among two people who have him to thank for their start in TV: on his left, Maria Bartiromo, who Ailes hired at CNBC in 1993, and on his right, one seat away, Chris Matthews, who Ailes hired in 1994 at the network that would become MSNBC. Katie Couric and Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson, Jr. were also seated on the dais.

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews chats with Roger Ailes.

Both candidates took aim at the media in their lighthearted speeches, which all three of the general cable networks broadcast live.

“I particularly want to apologize to Chris Matthews,” Pres. Obama said of his performance in the first Presidential debate. “Four years ago, I gave him a thrill up his leg. This time around, I gave him a stroke.”

“Now I never suggest that the press is biased. I recognize that they have their job to do, and I have my job to do,” Romney quipped. “My job is to lay out a positive vision for the future of the country, and their job is to make sure no one else finds out about it.”

Other tvnewsers we spotted in the crowd: NBC’s Luke Russert and his mom Vanity Fair’s Maureen Orth, Bloomberg’s Erik Schatzker, FNC’s Neil Cavuto, Deborah Norville, and more.

The dinner, an annual fundraiser for Catholic Charities, has been held since 1945, the year after the death of Al Smith, the former New York governor and one-time presidential candidate. It has been a stop on the campaign trail during presidential election years since 1960.

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