The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

February 12, 2014

Stag French leader gets warm state dinner embrace

WASHINGTON (AP) — Michelle and Barack Obama found just the right spot to seat a gent going stag to Tuesday's state dinner: They plopped French President Francois Hollande down right between them in a giant party tent, and put the pshaw to all that drama about his solo trip to the U.S. after a very public breakup from his first lady.

The A-list guest roster for the biggest social event of Obama's second term — flush with celebrities, Democratic donors, politicians and business types — mostly tried not to go there, tactfully avoiding talk about "l'affaire Hollande."

"I don't get involved in those things," demurred actress Cicely Tyson, who at age 80 said she's been to plenty of state dinners over the years.

Former NAACP official Ben Jealous was nothing but admiring of the French intrigue.

"I think the French are way cooler than we are on a whole lot of fronts," he said, including way better gossip.

On a frigid night, the evening's pomp and pageantry were all designed to wrap Hollande in a comfy blanket of warmth, from the moment he stepped out of his limo and onto a red carpet on the White House north portico. The Obamas were there on the front steps to greet him, the first lady clad in a black and liberty blue silk gown by Carolina Herrera.

The dinner's celebrity quotient included actors Bradley Cooper, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mindy Kaling and Tyson. Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert somehow managed to snag a seat right next to the first lady. There were plenty of politicians, per usual. And in a midterm election year, the Obamas invited in more than two dozen donors to Obama's campaigns and the Democratic Party. Among them were Irwin Jacobs, the Qualcomm Inc. founder who has given more than $2 million to pro-Obama super PACs, and Jane Stetson, the Democratic National Committee's finance chair.

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