By Steve Holland and Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden rolled out the red carpet on Thursday for celebrities, lawmakers, and titans of industry at the White House’s first state dinner in honor of French President Emmanuel Macron.
The dinner is the crowning social event of a trip aimed at showing Biden’s commitment to Washington’s oldest ally even as the two countries wrangle over how to handle Russia’s war in Ukraine, subsidies for U.S. products and other issues.
The guest list included actress Jennifer Garner and her daughter with Ben Affleck, Violet; singer John Legend and model Chrissy Teigen; “Vogue” editor Anna Wintour; and director Baz Luhrmann.
Those celebrities joined members of Biden’s Cabinet, lawmakers, and business leaders including Bank of America Corp CEO Brian Moynihan, KKR & Co Inc investor Henry Kravis and Microsoft Corp president Brad Smith.
On Thursday night, Biden and his wife, Jill, welcomed the Macrons back to the White House for the dinner after diplomatic meetings earlier in the day.
Both presidents wore tuxedos. Jill wore an Oscar de la Renta lace dress and dangly silver earrings. Macron’s wife, Brigitte, was clad in Louis Vuitton.
Less than two weeks after Biden’s granddaughter was married on White House grounds, the event brought a touch of pizzazz to the businesslike presidential residence, whose social calendar was undermined by precautions taken in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Guests strutted along the red carpet in front of reporters to a reception in the White House before taking a trolley bus to a pavilion on the South Lawn for the formal dinner around 10 p.m.
There they were treated to toasts, music from Jon Batiste, Chardonnay from the Napa Valley and cheeses from Oregon, California and Wisconsin. Some 200 Maine lobsters were flown in for the candle-lit occasion.
“It’s going to be fire,” Batiste told reporters of his performance as he arrived.
The lavish Washington dinner is one of few events that bring together people including the president’s son Hunter and Kevin McCarthy, who leads a Republican congressional delegation that has vowed to investigate his business dealings.
Macron arrived in Washington on Tuesday for his second state visit to the United States since the French leader took office in 2017.
Biden, 80, and Macron, 44, have had many meetings at international gatherings but this was the longest time they have spent together.
“Tonight we celebrate the enduring alliance between France and the United States,” Biden said as guests clinked their champagne flutes. “Vive la France and God bless America.”
Macron added that the two countries come from “the same values” of “we, the people.”
(Reporting Steve Holland and Jeff Mason; Writing by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Lincoln Feast)