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Hunter Biden among high-profile guests at state dinner honoring Indian PM Modi | CNN Politics


Hunter Biden attended the state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday evening, marking his first public appearance at the White House since his plea agreement was announced.

His inclusion marked a notable show of support from President Joe Biden, whose long-standing loyalty to his son has been on full display after Hunter Biden reached a plea agreement with the Justice Department. The younger Biden will plead guilty to two tax misdemeanors and struck a deal with federal prosecutors to resolve a felony gun charge.

During a meeting with Modi in the Oval Office earlier Thursday, the president flashed a thumbs up when a reporter asked how his son Hunter Biden was feeling. And on Tuesday, he told reporters he was “very proud” of his son.

“The President and First Lady love their son and support him as he continues to rebuild his life. We will have no further comment,” White House spokesman Ian Sams said following the plea deal announcement on Tuesday.

Hunter Biden has been on hand for various White House events since his father took office, including attending the state dinner for French President Emmanuel Macron last year. He attended Thursday’s dinner with his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden, as well as sister Ashley Biden, daughter Naomi Biden Neal and her husband Peter Neal, and his uncle, James Biden, according to a guest list released by the White House.

Other notable guests on the list included Huma Abedin, Apple’s Tim Cook, Martin Luther King III, M. Night Shyamalan, Ralph Lauren, tennis legend Billie Jean King, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, designer Reem Acra and multiple Cabinet officials.

President Biden toasted his counterpart during the lavish black-tie event that took place in a tent on the South Lawn overlooking the Washington Monument and the White House. He jokingly welcoming the evening’s nearly 400 guests to “Prime Minister Modi’s Washington home,” at the White House.

“I’ve been doing this a long time, but don’t ever remember anybody getting a warmer welcome than this man right here,” Biden said.

He touted the two countries’ shared commitment to democracy, celebrating Indian Americans’ accomplishments “in the arts, education, in the media, law, medicine and science, and businesses of every size, in Spelling Bee champions, and even in cricket clubs across the country, including in my home state of Delaware.”

Earlier Thursday, Biden welcomed Modi to the White House with the full pomp and circumstance of a formal arrival ceremony, a military welcome that dates back to the Truman administration and features a full honor guard. Biden and Modi held bilateral meetings in the Oval Office and a brief press engagement before Modi addressed a joint session of Congress in the late afternoon.

Thursday’s dinner was the result of weeks of meticulous planning by the White House social team, the East Wing and the State Department, weaving American and Indian cultural elements and traditions into the décor, entertainment, and menu.

During the dinner, Biden and Modi gave toasts with a backdrop nodding to both national birds: The bald eagle and the peacock, respectively. The peacock, White House social secretary Carlos Elizondo said, also served as inspiration for much of the design.

“We want it to evoke that breathtaking feeling when it extends its tail, unveiling its colorful beauty, majesty, and spirit,” he said.

The tables were set with dark green and pale blue linens adorned bright pink and orange florals, candles, and symbols of the lotus flower, designed by the White House team in conjunction with David Stark Design and Production.

“Each table arrangement is warm and unique. We hope guests feel as if someone has set their table just for them – because we have,” first lady Jill Biden said during a preview of the dinner.

Elizondo told reporters that the first lady had sought to make Thursday’s large-scale event feel intimate, saying, “She’s been involved in this event at every step of the way, and every element of the dinner and décor has been chosen to make each guest experience personal and warm.”

Entertainment was provided by Grammy Award-winning violinst Joshua Bell, the University of Pennsylvania’s “Penn Masala” South Asian student a cappella group, and “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band Chamber Orchestra.

Guest chef Nina Curtis, a plant-based chef from Sacramento, California, worked closely with White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford, and White House Executive Pastry Chef Susie Morrison to develop a plant-based menu to accommodate Modi’s vegetarian diet.

“We have curated a menu that really showcases the best of American cuisine seasoned with Indian elements and flavors,” Curtis told reporters, adding that the meal would allow guests from both countries “to experience something of the other’s culture.”

Guests dined on a first course of marinated millet and grilled corn with compressed watermelon and a tangy avocado sauce. The main course was stuffed portobello mushrooms with a saffron-infused risotto. And dessert was a rose and cardamom-infused strawberry shortcake.

For dinner guests seeking a non-vegetarian option, a main course of sumac-roasted sea bass was available upon request.

This headline and story have been updated with additional developments.

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