UPDATED: A “Real Housewife” and her Husband Gate Crash the White House

Update: I’m watching the news, right now. Fox 5 DC is reporting that Michaele was never a Redskins Cheerleader. The Secret Service visited the couple’s winery this morning, but the party-crashers were not there. The Salahis DID meet Obama via a receiving line, Tuesday night. The Secret Service owned their failure in a strongly-worded statement today; the news said that they are considering pressing charges.

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Before it occurred, the State Dinner was all anyone could talk about, here in Washington, D.C. After? We’re still talking about it– and yes, contrary to what some SM commenters think, State Dinners are a big deal. I will admit that my perception is perhaps tainted; I don’t just live inside the Beltway, no, I am surrounded by the chattering class and bold-faced names because I live in Georgetown, home to many elected officials, the journalists who cover them, and the staffers who serve them. So here? The State Dinner Mattered, with a majuscule “M”.

Fashion mattered. Etiquette mattered. The food mattered. Most of all, the “rules” mattered, because following them was how we guaranteed a successful event. One rule which was broken, in what many here see as a daring move to differentiate the Obama administration from those which preceded it? Serving food from the same culture of the guest who was honored:

…the Obamas shook things up by serving, among other dishes, Indian food to an Indian delegation, typically a no-no.

“You wouldn’t try to outdo the Indians; that would not be typical,” said Anita McBride, who served as Laura Bush’s chief of staff and took pains to praise Mrs. Obama as moving in a new direction. “It’s the perfect combination of American food with a nod to the visiting country.” [nyt]

It wasn’t just American food, it was a personal statement by the first African-American president. They may have started with “elite” arugula, but they also served collard greens. Who better to strike such a delicate balance, and to take a considerable risk, than a world-class chef with a seriously cross-cultural back story?

They selected a guest chef, Marcus Samuelsson of Aquavit in New York, an American citizen who was born in Ethiopia, reared in Sweden and cooks up melting pots of flavors and cuisines. [nyt]

Salahis

While the culinary “rule” was broken without repercussions, a different, more serious bout of rule-breaking is what has my city (and the world, really) uttering a collective “WTF?” As almost all of you may know by now, two fame-loving, local “socialites” crashed the State Dinner. No one crashes State Dinners, or at least, no one had, until Tareq and Michaele Salahi outrageously swept in and probably caused some poor Secret Service agent to lose his job. Not surprisingly, the Salahis seem to have crashed other events, too (I doubt that they were O’s private, special guests at the Inauguration).

Some of us in D.C. are slightly aware of them because of their association with wine and polo, but what they’re really known for is self-promotion, and goodness, gracious me was this stunt the biggest attempt at that…goal. Neither of their “endeavors” is without controversy, by the way. Tareq Salahi is estranged from his parents with regards to the now-bankrupt Oasis winery (reopening in 2010! Maybe!) and America’s Polo Cup (an APC event may or may not be the excuse they’re using for their un-Stately shenanigans) doesn’t pay its vendors. So it’s not like these two are well-regarded, around here.

Lordy lordy, if I had known that the ex-Redskins Cheerleader preening at my neighborhood salon (Erwin Gomez) was getting gussied up to do THAT, I would’ve stopped and taken a picture of her overly-aerobicized ass while on my way to work. That’s right, I PASSED her while she spent seven or eight (!) hours primping for her daring act of fame-whore roulette. Why so many hours in a stylist’s chair? Because. Reality show cameras were there.

The cable network Bravo confirmed on Thursday that its cameras were following — and filming — an aspiring reality-show couple who managed to attend President Obama’s first state dinner at the White House on Tuesday. [different NYT article]

Before we DC-ers kibitzed over “sari, lengha or dress?”, we were atwitter with news that the infamous “Real Housewives of ____” franchise was hitting Chocolate City, next. Again, living in Georgetown meant that I was mired in it, since this is the neighborhood for Ladies who Lunch. While no one has been cast, several women are being trailed around town, each trying to prove that they’re the “Realest”. Crashing what the NYT called “the biggest and most exclusive soiree to take place in Washington this year” may have been Michaele Salahi’s attempt to outshine her competition, but I hope she ends up with a felony, instead.

Yes, yes, I’m glad that the White House got lucky, that this was the work of “Balloon Boy”-esque idiots and not someone trying to harm the President (or the Prime Minister!), and I know that the Salahis had to go through security to make it in to the tent with their trusty digital camera, but I can’t believe that this happened, that actual famous people had to wait patiently at two checkpoints while these wanna-bes got super-lucky and only bullshitted their way through one…or maybe I can believe it:

How could it happen? A former White House senior staffer — who more than a decade ago encountered a crasher at one of the executive mansion’s less-fancy parties — offered this theory:

A savvy pair of crashers, dressed to the nines, might arrive on foot at the visitors’ entrance, announce their names — then express shock and concern when the security detail at the gate failed to find them on the guest list. On a rainy night like Tuesday, with a crowd of 300-plus arriving, security might have lost track of or granted a modicum of sympathy to a pair who certainly looked as though they belonged there. If their IDs didn’t send up any red flags in the screening process, they would be sent through the magnetometers and into the White House.

And yet, the former staffer noted: Someone from the White House social office should have been posted at the guest entrance with the guards.

Once visitors were in, no one necessarily would ask them for further identification. They could check their coats, give their names to the Marine on duty, walk past reporters and into the lower hallway where guests picked up their table assignments. They would pass the junior staffers handing out seating cards and walk on up the stairs for cocktails in the East Room. [WaPo]

I’m amazed. When I worked in the equivalent of the social office for the Governor of California, wayyy back in the day, we were more careful than this– and that was for events of far lesser importance, and BEFORE 9/11, on top of that. This incident has spawned many questions, and while we have a few answers, more are coming; the Salahis are booked on Larry King, Monday night. Not surprising at all, right?

So to sum up: the Secret Service is mortified, two attention-whores are squee-ing with joy over what they got away with and Bravo is probably smugger than ever about all the free publicity they’ve received. While it pains me to admit this, we may end up better off for all the drama that these reality-tv-aspirants caused. Next time, someone might bring something deadlier than a digital camera to dinner. Perhaps the end result of this fustercluck is that there won’t BE a next time. Um…thanks, Salahis.

49 thoughts on “UPDATED: A “Real Housewife” and her Husband Gate Crash the White House

  1. What kind of attention whore attends a state dinner in a sari put on backwards? (Northern style – pallu thrown over the left shoulder; Gujarati style – pallu thrown forward over the right shoulder. She’s got it thrown back over the right, and tucked at her waist like an auntie.)

  2. i also hope they get booked. if only for her infuriating choice of a bright ass red lengha to contrast with her pasty skin and blond hair. grr why do white women only wear red or pink??

    on the real, i do hope they get charged with a felony and put in jail. unfortunately, i think this stunt will land them their own reality show on Bravo, rather than just a role in Housewives.

  3. What kind of attention whore attends a state dinner in a sari put on backwards?

    While, it is not common, her style does exist in India. In fact, sari is worn thousand different ways, that changes every few 100 miles in India

    More over, she was wearing a lengha, not a sari, and pallu can be worn in many ways.

    Crashing a party is not a felony, if they purposefully lied to a Federal employee, then it is. Felony charges hardly ever lands anyone in jail.

    I think it is pretty hilarious, and have to credit them for their ingenuity. They had fun, and so did Joe Biden.

    Even though it also showed some serious vulnerabilities in vetting the guests at the White House gate. Mr. and Mrs. Salahis are not totally unknown, and something tells me that their connections facilitated all this.

  4. LOL, I was watching the news yesterday morning, and saw the couple make an Oscar-styled entree and I was amazed at the bright-red “Shaadi-wala Lehanga”; My husband and me were trying to name the people, but of course were at a loss of words regarding them.. I thought, even it was a desi event, no one wears it even in today’s time.. Then today, no wonder, they were gate-crashers.. :D

    Yes, she was in lehanga, quite a long one, regarding her tall frame.. and a see-through dupatta!!

  5. Crashing a party is not a felony, if they purposefully lied to a Federal employee, then it is. Felony charges hardly ever lands anyone in jail.

    Yes, I didn’t mean to imply that gate crashing would definitely land them in jail. To be specific, as you pointed out, lying to the Secret Service/a member of the WH social staff is the felony. All I tried to say is that I hope they are held accountable for their actions. More:

    “This is not sort of a minor infraction, if you’re these two people who got in improperly. It’s a potential felony, ” Townsend said. “They would have had to make a false statement to the Secret Service agent and the social secretary’s person, both federal officials, that there was a mistake, that they were supposed to be on the list. That’s a lie and that’s a federal felony, for which they can serve jail time. It’s not just a misdemeanor for trespassing. It’s a potential felony.” [politico]

    As for this:

    I think it is pretty hilarious, and have to credit them for their ingenuity. They had fun, and so did Joe Biden.

    I’m glad they had fun. I’d have fun if I stole a 911 Turbo, but I’d end up paying for my ingenuity, too. :) Also, if we’re going to go by Biden’s “fun”-level as a barometer of…uh… ;)

    Even though it also showed some serious vulnerabilities in vetting the guests at the White House gate. Mr. and Mrs. Salahis are not totally unknown, and something tells me that their connections facilitated all this.

    They were not that well-known, here. I’ve attended polo matches/steeplechases/charity events for the past few years and I didn’t learn about either of them until the RHoDC-storm hit. Because I’m a huge, ashamed fan of the NY and NJ variations of that shite show, I took an extra-keen interest in who was being cast here. Otherwise? Not really on the radar. Almost all of the people who met them that night had no idea who they were. THEY barely knew who they were meeting. They called Rahm “Ron”!

  6. i guess this is serious. but i laughed.

    (btw, i had one of the wine’s served at the dinner. it was kind of like a cider, the riesling).

  7. Hilarious…And Eric Holder thinks he can maintain security for the NYC terror trials …

  8. Dear Salahis: There is a reason why you were not invited to this…because you are reality tv attention whores and virtually useless people.

    Dear Salahis: There is also a reason that you crashed it…because you are reality tv attention whores and virtually useless people.

    ;)

    A

  9. These people are going to be on Larry King?? Un-freaking-believable!! Well, at least it will be fun to see how old Fish Face is going to mangle their names. Oh, and maybe he’ll have footage of Michael Jackson’s ghost wandering around the White House too!

  10. i don’t get the color selection. hardly any skin tone looks good in that shade of red, let alone a blonde with pale skin. not a very flattering look for her.

    cattiness aside :-) , these lot just strike me as ultimately tacky, tacky, tacky. sadly, someone in the security detail may end up being fired because of this. if they were not doing their job, termination seems warranted in light of the seriousness of their responsibilities. however, i hope the individual does not end up serving as a scape goat for the whole ordeal. i am sure the salahis with their fortunes never thought about that prior to embarking on this stunt.

  11. “Hilarious…And Eric Holder thinks he can maintain security for the NYC terror trials … “

    Is this the new bed-wetting wingnut talking point? Oy.

  12. people be so angry at the crashers, jail felony stoning etc. The balloon hoax thing cost resources. These guys didn’t even get to eat poor things.

  13. @ 14 “i forgot to mention, “fake blonde with pale skin”….

    just sayin’!”

    I was about to point that out…

    @3 “grr why do white women only wear red or pink??”

    Simple answer, uh, we don’t. I HATE pink actually. Hate. hate. hate. Also, I like some reds, but not THAT red.

    I think when it comes to desi fashion, people with darker skin are luckier in that they can choose very bright and colorful clothes, which I think look really nice with darker skin tones… on the other hand, the paler you are, the better it is to wear more muted tones– my blonde-blonde friend who lived with me in India tended to wear more natural muted colors– like tans, creams, browns, greens, etc. These color kurtas, etc looked really good on her, but crazy bright colors would not. I am sort of inbetween, so I can get away with more medium toned colors– like blues, rusty reds and oranges, etc. But I would still look awful in bright bright colors.

  14. Hmm, or were they possibly assisted by their polo buddy, Indian Ambassador Arun K. Singh. The intrigue continues…

    It is quite possible, as I said earlier.

    However, Arun K. Singh is not the Indian Ambassador, even though is with Indian Embassy.

    Meera Shankar is the current Indian Ambassador to US

  15. “hardly any skin tone looks good in that shade of red,”

    There is a red for every skin tone. In this case I can picture a young dark Indian village belle from say Jharkhand looking like a million in that.

  16. i also hope they get booked. if only for her infuriating choice of a bright ass red lengha to contrast with her pasty skin and blond hair. grr why do white women only wear red or pink??

    Agreed. Those colors only look good on women with muddy skin and black hair.

  17. #21 & #22,

    Actually that shade would love gorgeous on an Asian woman. Darker skin tones (like mine) do better with deeper hues.

  18. Actually that shade would look gorgeous on an Asian woman. Darker skin tones (like mine) do better with deeper hues.

    Campmuir, that’s exactly what I said in #22.

  19. This is getting interesting. I wonder how they got in so easily? It should be a cause for concern.

  20. “heh… Looks like any bed wetting being done is by residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave…”

    That statement and that link together don’t even make sense. Conservatives really can’t bring the funny.

  21. These guys didn’t even get to eat poor things.

    I was wondering about that.They couldn’t just take any old place at the tables. Did they bow out before dinner or take someone else card, and if they weren’t at dinner, how and when did they leave? Really, the visual equivalent would be someone Indian crashing a state dinner for an American President at Rashtrapati Bhavan dressed as a bride, in white.

  22. I think there’s some confusion abroad regarding saris and lenghas- see howYahoo! Answers delivers nifty instructions in the art of turning the one thing into the other. Kush, I’m guessing this particular housewife never made a study of regional styles of sari draping. it’s the same as with namaste, try telling people who know better that it’s just a greeting, like saying How do you do? and not meant to be taken as an outright declaration that one recognizes the other person’s eternal soul.

  23. That statement and that link together don’t even make sense. Conservatives really can’t bring the funny.

    Now I’m no George Carlin, but you gotta see the humor here (well, perhaps I am expecting too much in your case)

    (1) House of the US President, bristling with state-of -the art security hardware on ground and in the air. (2) Multi-zillion $$ security force deployed all around. (3) Self absorbed actors and politicians(perhaps I repeat my self on the latter ) as guests (4) Two z-list wannabe celebs pull off a better acting job than the people mentioned in #3 above and fool everyone. (5) Above mentioned z-listers about whom nobody has a clue get to press the flesh with the most heavily guarded man in the country (60 Lots of egg-in-the-face ensues

    A little polish on presenting the punchline and hey, this could be a great zinger on some late night show.. The funny is there for everyone to see. Except for libs who need it explained to them. ;-)

  24. Opps forgot

    (7) Diaper leaks ensue at WH and not just in bed when people realize what could have happened if the z-listers had agendas other than just appearing on tv.

  25. Diaper leaks ensue at WH and not just in bed

    oye keystone. didn’t realize david vitter was elected to be president! or were you referring to john “depends” mccain.

  26. Above mentioned z-listers about whom nobody has a clue get to press the flesh with the most heavily guarded man in the country

    There’s an idea. We should get these attention whores to crash Khalid Sheikh Mohammad’s trial, preferably while wearing a flaming red chador backwards. Then even if we sentence that martyrdom-seeking attention whore to death by the most hideous means, it won’t be covered by any media because they’ll all be covering the fame-seeking attention whores instead. Bonus points for having a couple of Americans crash into a the trial of a plane-crasher.

  27. wow. a multi-step joke. i repeat, conservatives really do not bring the funny.

    by the way, the bed-wetting comment was in reference to conservative he-men like the virile men at of the nat’l review editorial board who are pissing themselves silly over terrorists being tried in the us.

  28. @36

    Ah c’mon man… why so serious, in the words of some clown… this whole thread has been about the humor of the situation (note the blog classification under the tag “humor”) ;-)

  29. What flavor “Haterade” is everyone enjoying?

    You have to respect the hustle.

    Most people cant talk themselves into a $50 discount off the MSRP at a car dealership, let alone past the secret service and into a dinner with the President.

  30. What flavor “Haterade” is everyone enjoying?

    Grape.

    This incident is making me start to believe that analysing the behavior of powerful peoplein the United States might actually be a waste of time because the simplest explanation for the last two decades might be the most accurate – they’re idiots. What kind of systems do you have in place that allow someone who is in all likelihood an assassination target (like every other president) to have randoms show up. Most clubs have better security than this. It’s an embarassment.

  31. Most people cant talk themselves into a $50 discount off the MSRP at a car dealership

    Oh come on, any desi uncle can pull that one off.

  32. I sincerely hope nothing ever happens to BHO. The idea of Biden in charge is scary to say the least.

  33. Here is what kills me: I would have had so much more respect for them if they had crashed the event to meet President Obama or Prime Minister Singh — instead, to get on a reality show? shudder

  34. Salehi’s dad Dirgham started a vineyard in Virginia and Taraq continues it. Funny family feud going on — apparently the mom was accused of brandishing a pistol and abusing vineyard staff, which she denies. She also ran a Montessori school. Lucky kids. I believe the Salehis are Christian Arabs, probably from “Palestine” or Lebanon. Who knows? Maybe they partied in the vineyard before taking it downtown. Drama becomes them.

  35. This is good stuff, looks like they have met the President before

    Ha! What a bunch of posers in that picture. The Salehis must have flashed that picture at the security guys and said they were \”FOBs\” (Friends of Barack). From the looks of it, that pretty much seems to be everyone in Hollywood. I wonder why that is. Hollywood isn\’t known for the most stellar characters.

  36. This is good stuff, looks like they have met the President before

    Ha! What a bunch of posers in that picture. The Salehis must have flashed that picture at the security guys and said they were \”FOBs\” (Friends of Barack). From the looks of it, that pretty much seems to be everyone in Hollywood. I wonder why that is. Hollywood isn\’t known for the most stellar characters.

  37. They really should have had an East- Wing office person at the gate like they usually do. I hope Desiree Rogers has learned from the experience…