The Reliable Source: White House Gate Crashers; Tareq and Michaele Salahi fool Secret Service to gain access
Monday, November 30, 2009; 11:00 AM
Washington Post columnists Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts were online Monday, Nov. 30, at 11 a.m. ET in a Special Edition of The Reliable Source to discuss the latest Washington scandal: crashing a state dinner at the White House and gaining access to the president, vice president, the chief of staff and many others.
Latest Column: Chasing fame: The Salahis' desperate 'Housewives' quest
Amy Argetsinger: Welcome, and thanks for joining us for this special edition chat: The (alleged) White House dinner crashers! Bring all your questions about the Salahis, security, reality TV and other things here.
Alexandria, Va.: My congratulations to you, Rox and Amy, for working this amazing story across the holiday weekend. I love it when the RS team gets into hard journalism! A question: is this more about ego or money?
Amy Argetsinger: Ego, money -- who, me and Rox?
We don't really know. I think money is certainly a big inducement for anyone to get involved in reality TV. However, it also seems clear that the Salahis were very likely to be on Real Housewives, even if they didn't go to a state dinner. It's possible they went to capture more photos of themselves with celebs for their glory wall -- or just because they really wanted to go to a state dinner.
Joliet, Ill.: I believe that at the least, these people should be charged with trespassing as they deliberately avoided pass guards. Don't you agree that some strong precedent should be set against them so as not to encourage others to sneak into secured areas?
Amy Argetsinger: We're all still trying to sort out what happened. But it seems as though the Salahis were actually allowed to pass through the security checkpoint, through an oversight by a guard. There's been a lot of talk about precedent.... but at the same time, prosecution could be tricky if we're talking about a situation where the "trespassers" didn't sneak past or bulldoze through, but rather simply exploited a lapse in security.
Washington, D.C.: In its coverage, The Washington Post refers to these people as "socialites." The stories go on to describe people who are deadbeats and gate crashers. How do you defend calling them socialites? It seems to debase the term.
Amy Argetsinger: Wait -- is "socialite" a compliment? I'm not sure it is.
New York City: Did this couple break any law? If so, will they be charged? If not, the government looks impotent and inept.
Amy Argetsinger: Some experts have said a charge of criminal trespassing is technically possibly. As I said before, we're going to have to see a lot more facts, though, before we can even hazard as guess as to whether prosecution would be feasible.
Houston, Tex.: Who cares about these no names -- big news -- CHELSEA'S ENGAGED!
Sorry -- I couldn't wait until Wednesday! Carry on.
washingtonpost.com: Chelsea Clinton Engaged (ABC News, Nov. 30)
Amy Argetsinger: I know! What can I say, when it rains it pours. Congratulations, Chelsea and Marc!
Cleveland, Ohio: The Secret Service said that the couple passed through a metal detector without raising an alarm. And the agency felt there was no threat to the president.
However, could they have been carrying a substance that if thrown at Obama would have caused harm? They did get very close to a number of public officials.
Amy Argetsinger: A lot of experts have made this point. It's not just about carrying a gun or knife.
Washington, D.C.: I have a comment about the couple who crashed the White House State Dinner. I would not try it myself but, I have to say they seem to make things happen for themselves. Some of the events that have been attended by the general public have not been allotted in a fair manner. The Salahis just took matters into their own hands.
Amy Argetsinger: Provocative argument. Anyone agree?
Loudoun County, Va.: A commenter here last week objected to Michaele being allowed to participate in "The Real Housewives of Washington" since she lives in Warren County, Va. So: What about "The Real Housewives of Front Royal"? Hey, I'd watch. What do you think?
Amy Argetsinger: Hey, at this point, I wouldn't be surprised if Bravo realized that's where all the drama is and moved their action about an hour west on I-66.
Clinton, Md.: It just seems a little odd that this agent would allow himself to be persuaded by the persistent Salahis, rain or not. Why wasn't there a backup to him and a staging area for people who may have been invited but not on the list?
Amy Argetsinger: So many mysteries. Other guests there that night say they thought the security checkpoint system seemed lacking.
Bethesda, Md.: Something positive came out of this whole incident. We saw the presidential security is not as secure as it should be. If these two can get in, then it would be easy for a terrorist to get in. The White House, however, belongs to the people of the United States. My president lives there. We all have been violated by what the actions of these two.
Amy Argetsinger: Definitely a learning experience, huh?
Washington, D.C.: Isn't it a crime to lie to federal officials -- like Secret Service agents -- and that could be prosecuted?
Amy Argetsinger: Well, there's so much nuance here... The Salahis keep insisting they were "cleared" to enter the White House. (Not the same as saying they were invited, of course.) It all depends on what exactly they said to the agent, probably -- did they say "we're on the list?" Did they say that and actually believe it for whatever reason? Or did they just give their names and then... well we don't know what happened. Yet.
College Park, Md.: Most WP commenters don't seem to value the success of these gate crashers. Will their success lower them to C-list socialites (from B-list) or add to their cache?
Amy Argetsinger: What do you think?
I guess you want to know what I think. This does not help them in Washington society or horse-country society, I'd say.
Arlington, Va.: Any chance she doesn't get on the show now because of the White House stunt? I feel Bravo feels a tad embarrassed by this and will probably get pressure from the White House.
Amy Argetsinger: Well, that's the million-dollar question I posed in my story today about the making of "The Real Housewives of D.C." (link above, I think). The two of them are now a walking spoiler alert -- will the world want to tune in if they already know your story? Or will viewers hunger for more behind-the-scenes drama?
washingtonpost.com: Chasing fame: The Salahis' desperate 'Housewives' quest (Post, Nov. 30)
Not on list either: The most astonishing aspect of this thing at the White House is the incomprehensible gap between how the anointed are able to live and the routine daily experience of ordinary people. If I showed up at a movie or a ball game without my ticket, I would be turned away. If I tried to bluster my way through the gates somebody would call the cops. And in my experience with the police, getting huffy guarantees an undesirable outcome. At best, Officer Friendly would answer somebody demanding, "Don't you know who I am?" with a curt "Sure, you're the guy with no ticket. Get outta here." And God help me if I show up at airport security without my ticket and ID. It's hard to understand why a guest at an event like this wouldn't be required to present his personal invitation -- bar-coded, serial-numbered and counterfeit-proof -- together with multiple IDs. Somebody without it would be turned away, or at least taken into a tiny, brightly lit room for an intensive personal evaluation. Have you ever seen how the Secret Service has dealt with other would-be party crashers, or with legitimate guests whose names were left off the admission lists?
Roxanne Roberts: Ah, there's the rub. Guests are required to provide birthdates and social security numbers in advance for background checks, but only have to show one picture ID at the gate to match their names on the list. The invitations are not bar-coded (a good idea, by the way) and the guests not asked to bring them.
And trust me---the Sahalis aren't big shots by anyone's standards (except themselves, perhaps), but they are very ambitious and work very hard to get into the spotlight.
Washington, D.C.: I was out of town when this happened, although I can tell you that it made the news in Florida (and relatives in Canada told me it was on their news too). How did you find out that they had crashed it? Did you look at the guest list and notice they weren't on it? Did someone send you the Facebook link? And even though this is the type of story to be very thankful for, did this shelve all of your Thanksgiving plans?
Amy Argetsinger: Roxanne and our colleague Robin Givhan were on the scene when the Salahis walked in, and they recognized them. They seemed like unlikely guests -- and indeed, a quick check showed they were not on the official guest list released by the White House at the start of the evening. If we had any doubt that that's who they had seen, the Salahis confirmed it for us by posting a note on Facebook early in the evening (basically a "hey, we're at the White House!") and putting their now-infamous photos up after midnight. By the early hours of Wednesday, their Facebook friends (they have about 1,300) were buzzing... Yeah, it kind of screwed up our Thanksgivings.
Toronto, Canada: I may be wrong in thinking this, but I have to give that couple some degree of credit. They have, as they say, a lot of chutzpah.
Since their intention was not violent, I have to admire the level of confidence of two people who essentially told everyone they were going to the White House, and actually got in and met the president.
Roxanne Roberts: There's confidence and crossing all boundaries of taste and appropriate, smart behavior. This was not some clever stunt; this was a dangerous breach of security. I don't think you'd be talking about "confidence" if an assassin confidently bluffed into the White House and killed the president.
Cleveland, Ohio: Michaele Salahi can crash my party anytime she wants.
Roxanne Roberts: We'll pass it on.
Michaele Salahi: Her outfit was beautiful, but she is exceedingly skinny. Girl needs to eat a sandwich.
Roxanne Roberts: Two sandwiches.
Washington, D.C.: Why is the media acting like this is a great joke when this is a very serious issue? Can you imagine the fallout if the Indian Prime Minister had been killed? They should be prosecuted. Worst case scenario, that this may be a first line of breech acted out for a terrorist organization.
Amy Argetsinger: The Salahis pose some entertainment value, but you're right, it's a serious matter. And I think you'll see that most news organizations are treating it as a very serious security issue. If it were just yuks and laughs, this story would have died by Friday.
I am SO tired of hearing about them: yet why am I on this chat? It is lucky those two found each other; wonder if they'll be on "Jail Cells of the Rich and Famous"? May be the SS agent who let them through can join them?!
Amy Argetsinger: You're not alone. A lot of people want to talk about this. That's why we're having this special edition chat. It's such a multi-faceted story, really.. .
Arlington, Va.: Is there any evidence that Bravo-TV's producers are behind this? Reality TV is showing its effects on people looking for glory. First "Balloon Boy" and now this. What do you think?
Amy Argetsinger: Bravo has said that, yes, its producers followed the Salahis during their preparations on Tuesday, but that they only traveled with them to the neighborhood of the White House, not to the door. They say they believed the Salahis had a proper invitation, because they were going by what the Salahis told them. They're otherwise not commenting much.
Fairfax, Va.: How did it come to pass that they were "announced" as they entered? Who put their names on the list for them to be announced as legitimate guests?
Roxanne Roberts: Doesn't work that way. After they got into the White House itself, they walked up a long hallway. At the end, there's a Marine who asks guests for their names to announce them, and then the guests walk through the lower foyer where reporters and photographers are waiting behind ropes. They simply gave their names, and were announced as "Mr. and Mrs. Salahi."
Reporters had an official guest list (which is how I knew they were not on the list) but I've never seen a Marine with one.
Anonymous: Why does the media refer to the Salahis as "gate crashers?" Their actions are not some type of juvenile prank. Their entry into the White House for a state dinner party may have been unauthorized and the Secret Service has been reported to be investigating whether a crime may have taken place. Worse yet, the exposure of shoddy Secret Service security may have emboldened real terrorists.
Now it's reported the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric is willing to pay the couple cash for an exclusive interview. I consider this very objectionable. Such an interview could further compromise national security. Also, no responsible media outlet would reward such behavior.
Amy Argetsinger: I haven't seen reports that CBS is willing to pay them cash; that seems unlikely. CBS is one of many news organization that has sought an interview with the couple. The Salahis, meanwhile, are said to be seeking a high price for an interview (their publicist now denies this). It's not standard practice for the mainstream organizations to pay for interviews.
"It kinda screwed up our Thanksgivings"...: Yes it may have. But we are all very appreciative. Your updates and info made me feel connected to D.C., even when I was in rural Florida. Your sacrifice is much appreciated!!
Roxanne Roberts: Thanks.
"alleged": You keep using that word, yet most other reports I've seen/heard are just calling the couple gate crashers. Why the hedging?
Amy Argetsinger: We try to be careful. As I've said already, we really don't know what happened.
Scoop City: Well done, ladies. Is this the biggest scoop you've ever unearthed? How did it feel to see the rest of the media world chasing your work and trying to wrest your baby away from you?
Amy Argetsinger: Thank you, probably, and awesome, in that order.
Anonymous: 1. You ladies rock. I love how you own this story. 2. I hope Bravo is watching, because I would TOtally watch "The Real Housewives of Front Royal." (D.C. -- eh. Probably not.)
Roxanne Roberts: Really? Front Royal? How many episodes could you find there?
College Park, Md.: Don't they have assigned seats at a state dinner? So when the crashers arrived, where did they sit? Do they have extra seats for gate crashers? Isn't that the place where someone not on the invite list would be exposed?
Amy Argetsinger: So far as we know, the Salahis were only at the White House through the cocktail reception that preceded the dinner. So it's possible that someone who wasn't supposed to be there could go unnoticed by their fellow guests as long as they got out before seats were taken.
Reston, Va.: Roxanne and Amy - If the party crashers were two unknowns and not glamorous and rich, would they be getting the same kind of media attention or would they be arrested and in jail by now?
Amy Argetsinger: Well, here's the thing -- Roxanne and I knew of them, and certain folks in the D.C. area knew of them, but they were NOT famous. (And our investigations are showing that they're not at all rich.) The fact that they were total unknowns in Washington's political circles -- except maybe to politicos who happen to follow gossip about possible reality TV stars -- is part of what's so astonishing about their ability to get in.
Takoma Park, Md.: Personally, I think of these two as a couple of socialite wannabes and from the Post articles of how much money they owe many organizations, a couple of grifters.
My question is, when they (or any couple) are being introduced, all these flashbulbs are going off. Who is taking all these photographs and why? I could understand one official White House photographer, but it seemed like a red carpet walk at the Oscars!
Roxanne Roberts: The pictures you are seeing are from the press area. TV and print reporters from both the U.S. and the visiting head of state's country gather there to interview and snap pictures of the guests arriving for the big night. Sometimes they talk to the reporters, sometimes not. But we always get plenty of shots of what they looked like and what they wore.
The official White House photographer shoots the receiving line and other parts of the dinner closed to the press.
Washington, D.C.: After reading your story today, I was wondering if this would actually hurt their chances for being selected to be on that Bravo show. Throgh your hard work, you showed how hard people try to get on a show like this and how -- when you look at them closely -- they really are not all to famous. Is this really the type of person they want to appeal to across the country, particularly if they are being investigated by the feds. Footage of them getting ready for a dinner they claim to be invited to gets a little less accurate.
washingtonpost.com: Chasing fame: The Salahis' desperate 'Housewives' quest (Post, Nov. 30)
Amy Argetsinger: So many questions.... My immediate assumption is that this incident not only ruins the Salahis chance to be on the show, it might bring down the entire Housewives/D.C. season. But others are suggesting to me that Bravo is actually sitting on a treasure trove. You know, they might now have a completely different show.
I feel Bravo feels a tad embarassed by this and will probably get pressure from the White House.: I'd be very surprised if there were pressure from the WH on Bravo; doesn't the WH have better things to do with its time, what with wars, depression, health-care reform?
Now the Secret Service, that's another matter. I hope they press charges even though the person who let them in with no invitation (and I thought WH guests WERE required to bring the invites and show them) should be disciplined, too.
Amy Argetsinger: Fair points, thanks.
Washington, DC: I saw a reality show producer being interviewed on one of the morning shows, and she essentially said that producers would be crazy to put the Salahis on the show after this stunt. They want drama, yes, but they don't want exposure to potential legal problems.
It also struck me that people seem particularly mad that this happened to the Obamas on their very first state dinner. If it had been a Bush event, some (myself included) might have been somewhat amused -- though I would not want any president exposed to this security breach.
Roxanne Roberts: I think the outrage is over the security---Obama has more threats than any other president, and people are really upset that this happened to him in the White House.
Anonymous: Considering that vegetarian menu they served I think those gate crashers should be happy they didn't make it all the way to the dinner tent.
Roxanne Roberts: Now now---I heard it was delicious.
Bethesda, Md.: Thank you for arranging this forum. The circumstances and motivations seem oddly similar to the couple who fabricated the "balloon boy" hoax. Shouldn't this angle to the story be considered? That couple was justifiably and roundly condemned and the father is likely to be prosecuted. That should be the case here. Do you think this is why the White House released the photo showing this couple actually met the president? Make no mistake, this is a serious breach of security and if nothing is done by the criminal justice system, it will merely encourage other self-promoters to do similarly outlandish things. I'm outraged that this shameless couple is demanding to be paid for their "story." Under no circumstances should they be rewarded for their criminal behavior.
Amy Argetsinger: Thanks for your thoughts. The White House released that photo after a volume of inquiries from the media. If they hadn't, it might have looked like they were covering up. It's public information.
Alexandria, Va.: I am fun loving, but I am very concerned about their lack of respect and their self-obsession. I think that there should be a consequence. This is the White House, where traffic used to flow along Pennsylvania Avenue. If we are concerned enough about blocking traffic flow, and we put plane passengers through enhanced security, we'd better catch crashers before they get to shake hands with the VIP guests and members of the administration -- not to mention the president and first lady!
Amy Argetsinger: A very clever friend of mine said, "Does this mean the White House is going to have to start using plastic cutlery, like on planes?"
Northern Virginia: It really took seven hours in a salon to achieve her look? Or was it just filming for the reality show in the salon?
Amy Argetsinger: The folks at Erwin Gomez tell us it was mostly all the takes and retakes for the reality cameras...
Amy Argetsinger: Confidential to Floris, Va., with the violinist friend... and confidential to Naples, Fla., with the makeup counter memories... and confidential to our Zengo correspondent -- please come talk to us at email@example.com. Thanks!
Reston, Va.: I guess the WH Social Secretary's office stating "we don't need someone from our office to screen guests as they arrive" seems pretty stupid right about now.
On Fox News Sunday, the crashers were referred to as frauds, con artists, scam artists, etc. Fair characterization?
Roxanne Roberts: I was pretty surprised the Social Office did not have a staffer with a list of invited guests at the gate. That's standard procedure for any big party, a must for a White House event. The staffer is there to verify if someone is on the list (or not) and to contact the Social Secretary if there is any question. That never happened Tuesday night.
I don't know for sure if they scammed their way Tuesday night (they keep claiming they did not)----but there's a long history of non-payments, lawsuits, dicey charity fundraising, and other really questionable activities that could fall under that characterization.
Glen Burnie, Md.: I admit it doesn't look good for Michaele and Tareq Salahi, but do we know whether the couple was waved in by a White House staffer or an Indian ambassador? Your original article talked about how the Salahis host a POLO event on the Mall and India recently joined as a participant. If they were hypothetically vouched for by someone on the inside, what does Secret Service do next?
Amy Argetsinger: Look, we've seen all the blog speculation about the Indian ambassador. This seems largely based on the fact that there are photos of him at a press conference with the Salahis. And as we already know, the Salahis are extremely adept at getting grip-and-grin photos of themselves with VIPs... and that it doesn't mean they're besties with the VIPs. Going to the White House isn't like going to a nightclub (or isn't supposed to be); you don't just blend into someone's posse at the front door.
Washington, D.C.: Really nice of Tiger Woods to wreck his car in his driveway in the middle of the night where he is saved by his golf club-wielding wife shortly after a tabloid report of an affair -- all in an effort to take some of the heat off the White House gate crashers. Those famous people need to stick together.
Amy Argetsinger: Note to self: Check the Salahis Facebook page for photos of themselves with Tiger Woods.
Gilroy, Calif.: I have a question and a comment. The question: If a pretty lady in a sexy outfit can get past what's supposed to be high security, how can we be sure that a terrorist will not try to pull a similar stunt, posing as a pretty ex-cheerleader/ model? The comment: It's sad that grown adults such as these two, who should be more mature are pulling such a stunt to gain popularity. If one is not invited, one is not invited. Pure and simple.
Amy Argetsinger: Yes, exactly! To those of you questioning whether this is a story -- or whether we'd care if less glam folks were involved -- this is why it's a story.
Washington, D.C.: Why is everyone is so quick to put the heat on the Secret Service for this? Unless there's something I haven't heard, the party crashers didn't hide in a buffet cart or sneak through an open window. I would imagine that, invited or not, they would've still gone through the same security protocols that invited guests had to abide by to get into the dinner.
Seems more likely that someone else greased the skids..."Yeah, they don't have an invite, but they're cool...."
Amy Argetsinger: So much speculation... We just don't know yet.
Washington, D.C.: This entire affair is offensive to me in every way possible and disrespectful to the office of the president. These people are pathetic, pathological, and obviously frauds. I was not inclined to watch the Real Housewives of D.C., but what can we, as people who take pride in the history, culture and integrity of our city do to keep these people off of the Bravo show? They, like the other women selected in other cities, reflect poorly on our town, the important work that goes on here, and the quality of our friends and neighbors.
Amy Argetsinger: I dunno. Write a letter to Bravo? They'd probably just take it as a sign of your secret, furtive interest.
Falls Church, Va.: I went to elementary school with Tareq Salahi. His parents ran the Montessori School in Alexandria. They were nice people who really seemed to care about kids. I can't imagine what must have happened in their family to have matters turn out like this, but for me this whole ridiculous event has been touched with a little sadness.
Amy Argetsinger: Thanks for weighing in.
Arlington, Va.: How is Michaele's name pronounced?
Roxanne Roberts: Mik-hail, like Gorbachev.
Washington, D.C.: I have a comment about the couple who crashed the White House State Dinner. I would not try it myself but, I have to say they seem to make things happen for themselves. Some of the events that have been attended by the general public have not been allotted in a fair manner. The Salahi's just took matters into their own hands.
Amy Argetsinger: Hmmmm... Salahis as populist icons?
New York, N.Y.: The media keeps referring to Mrs. Salahi's outfit as a sari. It's a lehenga (same type of dress the staffer you profiled last week wore to the dinner.)
Anne Applebaum was the latest to make this mistake in her column today.
Thanks for all your hard work this weekend!
Roxanne Roberts: Hope you noticed we got it right!
Rhode Island: As horrifying as it is to think that uninvited guests could get past security and shake the president's hand, I have sympathy for the Secret Service. I imagine there is subtle pressure, at least, to not humiliate high flying campaign donors and influential people by insisting on ID or whatever.
You'd think there'd be some high tech way to ID the guests in some way ahead of time so that the guards aren't left to their own devices when a pushy-yet-plausible-looking couple pull the "don't you know who I am" game.
Amy Argetsinger: Yep, yep, yep...
Danville: True or false? I heard on one of the morning news shows that the crashers had media credentials from Bravo? Will this affect their sister networks NBC and MSNBC?
Amy Argetsinger: I don't know what that means, having "media credentials" from Bravo. That's not what got them into the White House. They did not sneak in as journalists. Obviously, Bravo has acknowledge that Michaele was a prospective cast member for Real Housewives. They deny having anything to do with getting them in, and thus far, we don't have any evidence to suggest that they did do anything to get them in.
Think about it: This is Real Housewives, the show known for table-flipping, wig-pulling, "prostitution whore"-calling antics. Being connected with this show would not have helped the Salahis get into the White House.
Michelle Holt: How long has she been known as "Michaele"? I thought her name, pre-Salahi, was spelled more traditionally.
Amy Argetsinger: I've seen some reports that she is sometimes listed as Michelle. From the time she's been on our radar (a few years now), she's been Michaele.
Front Royal, Va.: My wife and I were married at Oasis Winery, and we interacted with the Salahis constantly during that experience. Well, when I say constantly, I mean that after signing a contract, we pulled our hair out in frustration constantly trying to get them to return calls or fulfill their obligations. We were routinely ignored and price gouged at every step. They did it all with a smile, and none of this shameless self-promoting that's going on surprises me in the least.
Amy Argetsinger: Sorry. Thanks for sharing.
Falls Church, Va.: Call me crazy, but is there any way that the TV cameras and the Bravo production crew encouraged or "egged-on" these nitwits into crashing the party? It's turned out to be publicity not only for the Salahis but for Bravo as well.
Amy Argetsinger: Well, if you phrase it like that... it's a more nuanced issue. It's well known that reality TV producers will massage reality a bit. They may also make it clear to their stars, explicitly or implicitly, that there is certain behavior they'd like to see, certain activities they'd like to film. It's possible that a star of one of these shows may make choices they wouldn't otherwise make, in hopes of pleasing their producers and making a good show.
Houston, Tex.: Roxanne: I saw you briefly state on TV that the minute you saw the party crashers, you wondered why on earth THEY were there. Why is this? What do you know about them that made you realize immediately that they didn't belong at a state dinner?
Roxanne Roberts: I've been covering state dinners for 20 years and I know how hard it is to get an invitation. It's the biggest invite the president can give, and the guest list is debated for months prior to the event.
When I saw the Salahis walk in, I was very, very surprised. They aren't big in political circles, don't have a lot of money, and didn't have any serious connection to India that I was aware of. I also had previously reported about all their past legal troubles and allegations, and the fact she was pushing to be on a reality TV show.
None of that added up to being one of the select VIPs included at a state dinner---especially the first one of the Obama administration. When I looked down at my copy of the guest list (the White House released it about an hour before the dinner), their names weren't there. Then I knew something was up, and began trying to figure out how they managed to be there. But never dreamed they had crashed.
New Orleans, La.: The idea of charging this pathetic couple is ludicrous. All they did was what every status- conscious egomaniacal media-created celeb does -- get their names out there in the media. They were no danger to the president, whose own career owes much to idol worship, or anyone else. The best punishment for these folks would be to ignore them and let them sink back down into anonymity.
Amy Argetsinger: Okay, thanks for your vote...
Clarendon, Va.: Well, we do know that these people have a history of lying or embellishing the truth -- i.e. I was a Redskins cheerleader and Victoria's Secret model.
Amy Argetsinger: Yup.
Baltimore, Md.: How did it end? Did they leave on their own? Were they asked to leave? If, so, by whom?
Amy Argetsinger: Our general understanding is that the White House was more or less unaware of the fact that uninvited guests were there. And judging by their Facebook postings, the Salahis felt no shame about their trip there. We theorize that they left on their own after the cocktail reception, before people sat down for dinner, and were not noticed leaving.
Silver Spring, Md.: You guys rock for breaking this story! Good job!
I think it's just so outrageous that they even thought to do it, and laughable that they succeeded. And then to brag about it on facebook... that's chutzpah.
Amy Argetsinger: Incredible, really.
Baltimore, Md.: How did the couple get seated for dinner? Weren't there place cards, or a table diagram? I wouldn't be able to crash a wedding without a seating card.
Amy Argetsinger: I think we've answered this before, but our understanding is they did not get seated -- and presumably left after the pre-dinner cocktail reception. All their photos appear to be from the cocktail hour; they have no photos of a table; the White House says they were not seated.
blending into someone's posse at the front door: Is that how you do it ? I always wondered why I can never get into any of the good clubs...
Amy Argetsinger: We should have a whole 'nother chat on that topic. I don't really know either.
D.C.: Have you found any evidence that other people have been able to sneak into functions like this, and just haven't bragged about it so publicly?
Amy Argetsinger: That's another lingering mystery. We'd love to hear about any more discreet gate crashing, if you know about it.
Baltimore, Md.: Re "events attended by the general public": Uh, this wasn't one of those. This was a state dinner for the prime minister of India. That's about as far from a public event as you can get.
My bet is that Bravo will run, run, run from these folks for two reasons. One, they are simply the latest example of how the prospect of reality TV "stardom" can make people do illegal and dangerous things. Second, ever since the story broke, there has been an unending stream of follow-ups about bad debts. Saw a neighbor of the couple on TV this morning saying tow trucks were always driving to their house (presumably to do repos). Also saw an interview with an event planner who never got paid. I don't think Bravo wants the focus to be on deadbeats.
Amy Argetsinger: Okay, interesting theory.
Capitol Hill: Are these guys getting paid by Bravo right now, or do they have to be selected to actually be on the show before they get paid? And does everyone who is selected get paid the same amount, or does it differ based on screen time?
Amy Argetsinger: These are all things I would love to know.
Reston, Va.: Where did the post-event photos come from; how was the couple able to post photos within two hours of the event on their Facebook page- what was the source of the photos? (cell phone, personal camera, etc.) I thought that these devices were not allowed at official functions (other than by media) Who was the media outlet?
Roxanne Roberts: Oddly enough, cameras are allowed (and cell phone with cameras.) The cameras have to be turned on at the security checkpoint to verify they are really cameras, but I saw a lot of guests using them Tuesday night.
Boston, Mass.: This is a huge security breach and it happened post 9-11. Do you think there should be a congressional investigation into how the Secret Service handles security and what resources they might lack thereof? After all Ron Kessler said they are under resourced and they have been cutting corners or was this just waiting to happen because of the complacency.
Roxanne Roberts: Some members have already called for an investigation; I wouldn't be at all surprised if it happens sooner rather than later,
Springfield, VA: You wrote, " Roxanne and our colleague Robin Givhan were on the scene when the Salahis walked in, and they recognized them. They seemed like unlikely guests -- and indeed, a quick check showed they were not on the official guest list released by the White House at the start of the evening. "
Why didn't you alert the White House that there were "intruders"?
Roxanne Roberts: I did. The minute I realized they were not on the list, I asked a White House staffer to verify their names and explain why they were not on the list. I told the same thing to another staffer a few minutes later. This was before the Salahis went through the receiving line with the president, and they could have been pulled aside and quietly questioned.
I can only assume the staffers believed anyone already inside the White was allowed to be there. Big mistake, and I'm grateful nothing serious happened.
Social Office: Here's why no one was manning the gate, so to speak:
White House Guest-List Chief Says She Quit Post (Newsweek, Nov. 29)
Roxanne Roberts: Interesting.
Casting call: So who's going to play them in the made-for-TV movie?
Roxanne Roberts: No one, God willing, because it would kill me to see that happen.
Montgomery County, Md.: From 11-27 New York Times: Brian Williams of NBC said the couple's vehicle was turned away at the vehicle checkpoint:
"Brian Williams, the anchor of "NBC Nightly News" and a guest at the dinner, saw the Salahis arrive when he was waiting in a line of cars to enter the East Gate of the White House. In interviews broadcast on NBC on Thursday, Mr. Williams said the couple's vehicle was turned away, adding, "Actually the first ring of Secret Service security had worked.""
Roxanne Roberts: That's true. We had that in our story, too---Brian was interviewed on NBC.
Washington, D.C.: I don't know much about Washington social circles, but have these two made themselves radioactive? Or will they be in demand at parties and other events as a sort of freak show act?
Roxanne Roberts: Depends on the party. I can tell you no political insiders will want anything to do with them.
Well done, Amy and Roxanne: While your Thanksgivings probably weren't what you hoped them to be, you did a fine job of reporting. I read the Post online every day during the break to see what your latest stories were. Well done.
Roxanne Roberts: Thank you so much. We're exhausted, but we really wanted to get the story right. Thanks for noticing.
Naples, Fla.: I worked with Michaele when she was a makeup artist for Chanel at Nordstrom in Tysons Corner. As disgraceful as it is, her behavior does not surprise me. She is a master manipulator, and make no mistake, Michaele is loving every minute of this.
Roxanne Roberts: That's what a lot of people are saying.
In vino veritas: Is their wine any good?
Roxanne Roberts: Bold, with a bitter aftertaste?
Rare moment of "had enough": Personally, I find this episode completely disrespectful of the offices of the president and Manmohan Singh. This along with the balloon boy parents should be moments of people being consigned to the scrapheap of Leavenworth without any cameras/blogs or whatever to grease their entry into the "Celebs cause we wanta be" club.
Roxanne Roberts: Honey, I'm with you. When I think of all the really good, honest people in this city, the idea that these two should get rich and/or famous because of this makes me crazy.
Folks, I apologize for all the questions we couldn't get to. Please send any other tips about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks, everybody, for the kind words.
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