White House says no change to French state dinner, despite le scandal in Paris

McClatchy Washington BureauJanuary 14, 2014 

French President Francois Hollande is due at the White House on Feb. 11 for a pomp and circumstance state visit and state dinner at the White House -- but a magazine's allegation that he's had an affair with another woman has prompted a protocol predicament.

Is his girlfriend, (Hollande is not married) Valerie Trierweiler, still considered France's First Lady, despite the affair and she will be at his side during the visit? (French outlets have reported that an upset Trierweiler has been in the hospital since gossip mag, Closer, published photos of the French president -- in a motorcycle helmet -- reportedly arriving and leaving an apartment where he reportedly carried out the affair.)

"I understand your question. And I am sure you will understand my answer," Hollande told reporters at a press conference he held this afternoon. "Everyone can go through hardships. That is the case. But I have one principle. Private affairs are dealt with in private, with due respect to all parties. Therefore this is not the place to go into this. If I do not go into detail about this today then I will do so before the meeting which you refer to."

For its part, the White House said there's been no change of plans for the state dinner. The White House announced the state visit and dinner in November and said at the time that Trierweiler would join Obama and first lady Michelle Obama at the dinner.

"The president looks forward to seeing President Hollande for the state visit in February," Carney said. "On issues of the delegation that the French come with, I would refer you to the French government."

Carney noted the relationship with France is the U.S.'s "longest, most enduring alliance and an important and valued relationship at every level."

This state dinner is eagerly anticipated after Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in September postponed a state visit over revelations of U.S. spying on her government and herself.

State dinners are an august, if infrequent, event that’s happened even less often under Obama and his predecessor. The number of state dinners has dropped in recent years, and “official” dinners with world leaders, which aren’t as protocol-laden, are more common.


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