The Latest: Obama ribs Nordic leaders at state dinner

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the White House state dinner for Nordic leaders:

9:45 p.m.

President Barack Obama’s toast to the five Nordic leaders is playing on the region’s reputation for being a bit quiet and staid.

Obama is promising the dinner won’t deliver any entertainment as crazy as the popular Norwegian television program “National Firewood Night.”

He says: “That’s crazy. I don’t want things to get out of hand.”

Obama ribbed the Nordic countries, sometimes viewed as socialist utopias, over their “fierce debates” over which country is happiest and which country is the true hometown of Santa Claus.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen is noting the region’s many gifts to the U.S. — including Scarlett Johansson, whose father is Danish, and Uma Thurman, whose mother is Swedish.

He says the U.S. can also thank Norway for GOP strategist Karl Rove.


7:25 p.m.

Michelle Obama is standing out in a sea of black tuxedos in a blush-colored, strapless, floor-length gown at the Nordic Summit dinner.

The first lady chose a dress by Indian-born designer Naeem Khan for the White House dinner honoring the leaders of Sweden, Iceland, Finland, Denmark and Norway. She finished the look with gold jewelry and a wispy chignon.

While state dinners typically celebrate a single head of state — and Mrs. Obama often wears a gown by a designer from the country being honored — the Nordic party was a twist on typical White House protocol.

President Barack Obama accidentally stepped on his wife’s dress as they made their entrance, but still looked impeccable.


7:20 p.m.

The unusual five-way state dinner is creating some challenges for the protocol experts at the White House.

As the leaders arrived, the Obamas stood outside to greet them, flanked by an honor guard — a typical setup.

But the flags the guardsman held had to be quickly changed five times — lest, say, the Finnish flag welcome the Norwegian prime minister.

The swaps occurred quickly as each leader drove up in a limousine and before each walked up the steps of the White House.

Similarly delicate diplomacy was involved with deciding which leader would speak and when.

Obama explained early Friday as he greeted the leaders that each would get a chance to speak at one public event throughout the day — but only once and not all at once.


5:10 p.m.

President Barack Obama’s state dinner for the five Nordic countries is bringing out a smattering of stars.

The guest list includes Will Ferrell, who famously parodied past President George W. Bush, and Bellamy Young, first lady on the TV show “Scandal.”

David Letterman is expected, as are “Girls” actress Allison Williams and former NBA star and regular Obama golfing buddy Alonzo Mourning.

Singer Janelle Monae is on the list, too. The guests of Nordic background include star chef Marcus Samuelsson.


5 p.m.

More than 300 guests received coveted invitations to Friday night’s White House state dinner honoring the leaders of Sweden, Iceland, Finland, Denmark and Norway.

Instead of sitting around circular tables, the guests will be dining at wooden farm tables set with white china, beveled crystal candlesticks and soaring ice vases with white field flowers. The dinner is being held in a tent with a transparent ceiling giving guests a view of the night sky — on a cloudy, drizzly day.

Appetizers included salt-cured tuna along with waffles served American-style with chicken. The main course: braised beef short ribs from Nebraska.

Dessert is an homage to the fishing industry in the form of a blue, glowing, edible fishing boat, displayed with elderberry custard pie, raspberry kringle and gooseberry cookies.

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