A Trump Joke Lands Unevenly in Room With Schwarzman, Rubenstein

(Bloomberg) -- Things got awkward Monday night at a benefit for the Inner-City Scholarship Fund when Mo Rocca, a correspondent for "CBS Sunday Morning," attempted some humor at the president’s expense.

Rocca joked that honoree David Rubenstein, a known collector of rare documents, had just purchased the Ark of the Covenant -- the original tablets with the Ten Commandments, as Indiana Jones fans may recall -- which the financier would be donating to the charity’s live auction.

A Trump Joke Lands Unevenly in Room With Schwarzman, Rubenstein

He then added that this act had inspired him. "Last week I began printing out and saving all of Donald Trump’s tweets,” Rocca said, as a picture of a file box marked “SAD!” was projected above him. “Here they are -- the Ark of the Incompetent.”

Several loud approving whoops followed from around the room, but not so much from the table of honor in front of the stage, where Steve Schwarzman, one of the Inner-City Scholarship Fund’s biggest donors, was seated. Maybe Rocca hadn’t known that just this weekend, Schwarzman hosted Trump at his Park Avenue home for a fundraising event. (Peter Grauer, chairman of Bloomberg LP, is a non-executive director of Blackstone Group and president of the Inner-City Scholarship Fund.)

Rubenstein, while directing the conversation from politics back to religion, still managed to return some decorum to the podium.

A Trump Joke Lands Unevenly in Room With Schwarzman, Rubenstein
A Trump Joke Lands Unevenly in Room With Schwarzman, Rubenstein

The Carlyle Group founder, accepting the James B. Lee Lifelink Award, said he’d recently interviewed Moses for his Bloomberg Television and digital series. Rubenstein said the prophet told him God had asked him to come up and review the Ark’s tablets -- and that he’d talked God down from 25 commandments. “The adultery one, he couldn’t get out,” Rubenstein said.

This time there were guffaws from everywhere in the Mandarin Oriental’s ballroom.

Speaking of the Ten Commandments, if Paul Taubman had his way, they would include “thou shalt volunteer.” The founder of advisory-focused investment bank PJT Partners is chairman of New York Cares, which arranges volunteer opportunities.

“People want to be connected,” Taubman said at the nonprofit’s benefit Monday night at the Plaza. “This is a big, anonymous city, and people want to organize, and they want to feel like they’re making a difference. The reality is that the best way to make a difference is to bring it down to an individual level, and that means volunteering your time and helping one individual.”

A Trump Joke Lands Unevenly in Room With Schwarzman, Rubenstein

Richard Bilotti of P. Schoenfeld Asset Management said the group he leads to take fifth graders on New York outings -- to the zoo, the circus, ice skating -- has been filling up more quickly than at any other time in his 27 years of volunteering for New York Cares.

Banker Don Cornwell recently volunteered to paint a school on the Lower East Side, including a mural with an aquatic theme. He took the easy job. "I mostly painted the ocean, so just blue."

Supporters of the MacDowell Colony artists’ retreat, at an event held at the Whitney Museum, showed their obeisance of another commandment: Thou shalt read Thomas Mann.

Salman Rushdie said he’s working on "Buddenbrooks," Mann’s first novel, inspired by a trip to Germany. Fellow novelist Michael Chabon, chairman of MacDowell Colony, which is based in Peterborough, New Hampshire, said he’s about to re-read “Doctor Faustus.” Patti Smith said she recently went to a bookstore in the dreary London rain to purchase “The Magic Mountain.”

A Trump Joke Lands Unevenly in Room With Schwarzman, Rubenstein

The punk-rock icon said she reads a few books at a time that she keeps on a ledge by her bed. Right now, they include a re-reading of Chilean novelist Roberto Bolano’s "2666" and a book by Frenchman Patrick Modiano, a Nobel Prize winner.

"Whenever I can’t find a good cafe, I just read him and slip into the cafe life," Smith said.

Thou shalt go to galas, even three in the same evening.

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