Is this the end of the Tareq and Michaele love story? Or just another darn publicity stunt?
Whatever it is, the Virginia horse-country characters, who caused a scandal with their uninvited appearance at a 2009 White House state dinner, seized our attention once again Wednesday when Tareq Salahi reported that his willowy blonde wife had been abducted.
In fact, Michaele Salahi had run away, it seems — into the open arms of a grizzled rock star.
Tareq, the polo-playing scion of the feuding Oasis Winery family, lit up the Internet early Wednesday when he told TMZ his wife of eight years had gone missing — and that he believed she’d been “kidnapped.”
Hours later, though, came a calmer statement from the Warren County (Va.) Sheriff’s department:
They had talked to Michaele Salahi. She seemed fine. She had left home willingly. And she told them she didn’t want her husband to know where she was. Sad. Or was it? The spotlight had dimmed for the couple since Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of D.C.” — which turned their state dinner scandal into a juicy reality-TV plot point last year — failed to get renewed for a second season. Still, there’s been a mild buzz of activity in Salahiworld: They’ve continued to float oddball stories about themselves (i.e., a recent report that they’re trying to have a baby) to the online gossip rags. They’ve recently tried to hype a gala reopening at Oasis — though it remains mired in an ownership dispute, and its assets are scheduled to be sold at a bankruptcy auction Saturday. (Investigations of alleged charity and business fraud by the couple are said to still be in play.) Meanwhile, talk-show star Montel Williams has issued cease-and-desist notices against the duo for falsely linking his name to their gala, which the couple has claimed will be the subject of a future TV show.
Despite Michaele’s assurances to police, Tareq (who did not return The Post’s phone calls) gave tearful interviews maintaining she must have been coerced; Warren County authorities dutifully announced they were working with the FBI “to assure her well- being.”
Oh, she’s fine. Late in the day, a publicist for Journey — yes, the ’80s arena rockers — confirmed to us (following another TMZ report) that Michaele, 45, is shacking up with guitarist Neal Schon, 57, and is currently with him at a concert tour stop in Memphis. (Journey, before their recent career resurgence, had played at Salahi-run polo matches. Read more about the Salahi-Journey connection.)
“She’s not been kidnapped,” the rep told us. “Nobody kidnapped her.”
Sigh. And hmmm. Schon’s not looking to get into reality TV, is he? “Absolutely not,” she said.