By The Reliable Source
The Washington Post
November 25, 2009
A couple of aspiring reality-TV stars from Northern Virginia appear to
have crashed the White House's state dinner Tuesday night, penetrating
layers of security with no invitation to mingle with the likes of Vice
President Biden and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.
Tareq and Michaele Salahi -- polo-playing socialites known for a bitter
family feud over a Fauquier County winery and their possible roles in
the forthcoming "The Real Housewives of Washington" -- were seen
arriving at the White House and later posted on Facebook photos of
themselves with VIPs at the elite gathering.
"Honored to be at the White House for the state dinner in honor of India
with President Obama and our First Lady!" one of them wrote on their
joint Facebook page at 9:08 p.m.
But a White House official said the couple was not invited to the
dinner, not included on the official guest list and never seated at a
table in the South Lawn tent.
A woman describing herself as a publicist for the Salahis denied that
they were interlopers. Pressed for details, Mahogany Jones sent a
statement saying simply: "The Salahis were honored to be a part of such
a prestigious event.... They both had a wonderful time."
While the White House offered no official explanation, it appears to be
the first time in modern history that anyone has crashed a White House
state dinner. The uninvited guests were in the same room as President
Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh, although it is unknown whether they met the Obamas and the guest
"Everyone who enters the White House grounds goes through magnetometers
and several other levels of screenings," said Ed Donovan, a spokesman
for the Secret Service. "That was the case with the state dinner last
night. No one was under any risk or threat."
Donovan said a preliminary internal investigation Wednesday identified
"a Secret Service checkpoint which did not follow proper procedure to
ensure these two individuals were on the invited guest list." He
declined to give further details. An administration official said the
White House will conduct its own review.
The Salahis, both in their 40s, showed up about halfway through the
guest arrivals. A Marine announced their names, and the couple -- he in
a tux, she in a striking red and gold lehenga (traditional Indian
formalwear) -- swept pass reporters and photographers, stopping several
times to pose for pictures. They then walked into the White House lower
hallway, where they mingled with guests on the red carpet before heading
up to the cocktail reception in the East Room.
Later, they posted pictures that seem to chart their course through the
night: Michaele posing with Marines outside near the White House doors,
and with Katie Couric and Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) inside the mansion.
In the East Room, the Salahis both cozied up to D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty
and his wife, Michelle.
But the best was yet to come: Once inside the dinner tent, they got
pictures that appeared to show them with ABC's Robin Roberts, Bollywood
composer AR Rahman, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, Obama Chief of Staff
Emanuel (identified as "Ron" in the couple's Facebook photo caption) and
two with a grinning vice president. The photos end there -- no shots of
the Salahis sitting at a table, their seatmates or the post-dinner
In this May 2007 photo, Tareq (left) and Michaele Salahi talk to Prince
Charles at a polo match. (Courtesy of the America's Cup of Polo)
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 like 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.
Later, all guests were directed to head for the dinner tent on the South
Lawn. Facebook photos suggest that the Salahis walked into the tent;
it's unclear when they left. Reporters were cleared from the entryway by
the time dinner seating got under way. There is no security checkpoint
to leave the grounds.
Did a friend send you this? From now on, be the
first to find out! Subscribe to InfoSec News