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Couple accused of crashing state dinner said to seek payment

By James Hohmann
Washington Post staff writer
Sunday, November 29, 2009 12:41 AM

The Virginia socialites who apparently crashed the White House state dinner last week remained elusive Saturday, as reports surfaced that the aspiring reality-TV stars were trying to sell their story for hundreds of thousands of dollars and CNN said the couple's upcoming appearance on "Larry King Live" had been cancelled.

The Associated Press reported that Tareq and Michaele Salahi were offering to talk to broadcast networks about their experience and were looking for a payment in the mid-six figures range. The news service attributed the information to a television executive it did not name. According to the report, representatives for the couple contacted networks to urge them to "get their bids in" for an interview.

The New York Times cited television executives making the same claim, also speaking on condition of anonymity. "They are asking for best offers from all the networks," the newspaper quoted one as saying.

Network news divisions generally do not pay for interviews.

CNN said the couple's appearance on Monday had been cancelled after producers were told that the Salahis were postponing.

The voicemail box for the couple's publicist, Mahogany Jones, was full Saturday night, and she did not respond to an e-mail. Their attorney, Paul W. Gardner, did not respond to a phone message.

Meanwhile, no one answered the door Saturday at the couple's house in Front Royal, Va., where reporters and photographers were staked out at the end of their gravel driveway. A CBS employee folded a handwritten note into the door, promising the couple that they would get a fair hearing of their side of the story if they talked with anchor Katie Couric.

A dog inside the house still barked loudly. A note taped to the front door read: "Hi Dana, Thanks for watching the dog. See you after weekend."

The Secret Service apologized Friday for the security breach, saying protocols were not followed Tuesday night when the Salahis gained entry to President Obama's first state dinner. A spokesman for the Secret Service said criminal charges had not been ruled out.

Staff writers Amy Argetsinger and Howard Kurtz contributed to this report.

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