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President Barack Obama greeting the Salahis in the Blue Room of the White House. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is in the background. Also seen in the background is Pepsico chairman Indra Nooyi.

The 2009 White House gate crash incident (the more prominent of at least two similar occasions in 2009) was an event on November 24, 2009, in which a White House state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was gatecrashed by Michaele and Tareq Salahi, a married couple from Virginia, and Carlos Allen, an entrepreneur from the District of Columbia. The Salahis and Mr. Allen arrived separately and do not appear to have colluded in their efforts. Although one reporter immediately recognized the Salahis and noticed their omission from the previously-printed list of guests, the Salahis and Mr. Allen freely attended and left the event without being directly challenged.

After returning from the White House, the Salahis posted their photos from the dinner on Michaele's Facebook page.[1] This led to the discovery that the Salahis were not on the list of invited guests for the dinner, and should not have been admitted. Subsequent reports and reviews of videotape revealed Mr. Allen as a third gatecrasher on that evening.

The Secret Service announced that it had not followed proper security procedures in admitting the Salahis and would seek criminal charges against the couple. Two members of the United States House of Representatives, Peter T. King and Bennie Thompson, have also sought legal action.



Michaele Salahi has been filmed as one of the housewives for Bravo's upcoming The Real Housewives of Washington, D.C..[2][3][4] Cameramen for the show filmed the Salahis' preparations for the dinner and followed the couple to the White House.[5][6] She has allegedly received an "appearance fee" for her participation in this film project.[7] Sky News reported: "The Salahis hope to build a public profile in the US after appearing in the filming for the reality TV show The Real Housewives of Washington, D.C., though their contribution was never aired." [8][9]

Tim Burke, director of the gatecrashing reality show MTV Blaggers!, said that Tareq Salahi contacted him about a week before the White House incident for advice on tricking one's way into a black-tie event.[10]

Michaele Salahi spent seven hours in the Erwin Gomez Salon in Georgetown to prepare for the November 24, 2009, state dinner, with a film crew from The Real Housewives accompanying her. Invited guest Brian Williams, anchor of the NBC Nightly News, observed the Salahis' SUV being turned down from the East Gate entrance of the White House that evening, after which the Salahis and crew left their vehicle and walked toward the White House.[11]


Tareq and Michaele Salahi allegedly entered the state dinner in honor of India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh despite lacking an invitation, although their camera crew was unable to follow them.[12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19] The Salahis passed through two security checkpoints, one of which checked them for photo ID.[11] Robin Givhan of the Washington Post surmised that the Salahis were allowed to enter because they "looked the part" and, in her words, stepped through a "cultural blind spot."[20] The Washington Post also quoted an anonymous official as having said that "the Salahis were allowed inside in violation of agency policies by an officer outside the front gate who apparently was persuaded by the couple's manner and insistence as well as the pressure of keeping lines moving on a rainy evening."[21]

In contrast to the more sedate black or navy blue evening gowns worn by most female guests, Michaele wore a gold-embroidered red ensemble, to which the press widely referred as a sari (more precisely, a lehenga-style sari and choli).[22] Michaele was recorded on film saying that she had conferred with White House Social Secretary Desirée Rogers as to whether wearing this attire would be appropriate, and that "they thought the sari was a great idea."[23][24] Aparajita Mukherjee of the Times of India later inferred that Michaele probably bought the ensemble in the Janpath market of New Delhi during a July 2009 visit to invite the Indian polo team to participate in the 2010 America's Polo Cup.[25] Michaele Salahi also wore expensive David Yurman jewelry to the event; reportedly, a Washington-area store lent her the bracelets and rings, in total worth $30,000, and needed three attempts to retrieve them.[26][27]

The Washington Post's Roxanne Roberts recognized the Salahis and subsequently wrote,

"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."[28]

Roberts' suspicions were apparently not acted upon; according to media reports, "the first the White House security detail knew of their blunder in allowing [the Salahis] into Tuesday's event was when the couple posted photographs from the dinner on their Facebook page."[29] The White House on November 27 released its own photos of the couple posing with President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel.[30]

Following the White House state dinner, the Salahis allegedly ordered drinks at the Hay-Adams Hotel bar, for which they did not pay.[31]

Michaele Salahi

Michaele Salahi (born October 1, 1965) is an American socialite and self-proclaimed model. She is rumored to be one of the featured housewives on Bravo's upcoming The Real Housewives of DC and sources say cameramen for the show followed the couple to the White House.[3][4][5]


Early life

Michaele (née Michelle Ann Holt) is one of four children of the late Howard A. Holt, Jr. and his wife Rosemary (née O'Malley). She graduated from Oakton High School in 1984 under the name of "Missy Holt".[32] She claims to be a graduate of King's College (without further specification), but took only one course at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.[32][33][34][35]

As Michaele Holt, she was a front-desk employee at contemporary hits radio station WKRZ in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 1989.[36] She then moved to the Washington, D.C., area, where she worked in the cosmetics department at Nordstrom at the Tysons Corner Mall in McLean, Virginia during the 1990s.[37] Around 2000 she operated a wedding makeup business.[38] In 2001 she was a make-up artist on the set of the "Lady Bird" episode of the PBS documentary series American Experience.[39]


Michaele met Tareq Salahi at a 2000 holiday party thrown by McLean, Virginia real estate developer N. Casey Margenau and his wife, Molly.[32]

The Salahis were married in 2003 in Washington D.C. The guest list included 1,836 guests, including Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Margaret Heckler. The wedding, originally scheduled for October 2002, was postponed numerous times, prompting Kennedy to quip that he needed to issue "subpoenas" to the bride and groom.[13][33] [40]

Their engraved wedding invitations included a 12-page program with individual entries for each of the 56 attendants (28 bridesmaids and 28 groomsmen). It also listed other events such as a "Rehearsal Dinner at the Home of George Washington" and an "Afternoon wine & cheese social on the 'Celebration' Yacht in Georgetown at the Washington Harbors”, although "[g]uests had to pay their own way for many of the weekend’s festivities" other than the wedding service itself (at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle) and the reception that immediately followed.[41]

According to a video posted on YouTube and her Facebook page, the reception at the Tareq family winery was prepared by 46 chefs, hosted in a 36,000-square-foot tent, and culminated with a 30-minute fireworks display and an eight-foot wedding cake.

Michaele's designer wedding dress cost $6,000, although Tareq filed federal fraud charges against the bridal salon when it attempted to process his credit card for the payment; the salon defeated the fraud charges and recovered the dress price, but only after spending $9,000 on legal fees.[42] Similarly, Michaele "ran up a tab [at the Erwin Gomez Salon] for thousands of dollars having her hair and makeup done" for her wedding but never paid the bill; she returned there for the seven-hour session to prepare for the 2009 White House dinner, but left without tipping the staff.[43][44]

Public profile

Michaele Salahi has gained more social exposure in her married life. She was the face of's Wine Getaways ad campaign. She has claimed past appearances in numerous television spots and various magazines as a professional model for companies such as BET, Chanel, MTV, Vogue, and Saks Fifth Avenue.[33]

In June 2005, she attended the Rock the Vote party at the National Building Museum and was photographed with Barack Obama (then a United States Senator from Illinois), alongside American Idol judge Randy Jackson and the hip hop musical group Black Eyed Peas.[45][46]

In Florida, a polo magazine editor said the Salahis submitted pictures for a December 2008 article that identified Michaele Salahi as a "former Miss USA." No record exists of her winning that beauty crown, pageant officials said.[47][48][49]

According to the Times of India, during a visit to India over July 4, 2009, Michaele Salahi "variously describe[d] herself as a 'former model', 'make-up consultant' and 'chair of the spring strutting ritual, America’s Polo Cup'."[50]

Michaele Salahi has claimed to be a Washington Redskins cheerleader.[13][51][52][53] The Washington Redskins have publicly stated that she has never worked for them, although she did join the cheerleaders' alumnae group under her previous nickname "Missy Holt". As part of that group, she performed with the Washington Redskins cheerleaders during the September 20, 2009, Redskins-Rams game at a halftime event honoring the team's pom-pom alumnae, though other members of the alumnae group did not remember her and questioned her dancing abilities.[54][55][56]

Tareq Salahi

Tareq Salahi is an American vintner and polo player. He has served on the boards of directors for the American Task Force on Palestine, a pro-Palestinian lobbying organization, and for the Virginia Tourism Corporation.[57][58] He became CEO of Oasis Winery after a bitter family feud that nearly bankrupted the business.[59]

Early life

Tareq Salahi was born on May 26, 1968, in Washington, D.C.[60] He is of Palestinian descent via his father, Dirgham Salahi, who immigrated to United States from Jerusalem in the 1940s. Dirgham was educated as a petroleum geologist and worked in the Middle East and United States. He retired to Virginia to manage an estate farm, which he subsequently bought and where he founded the Oasis Winery.

Tareq's mother, Corinne, is from Belgium. She is the founder and director of the Montessori School of Alexandria, Virginia.[32]

Dr. Ismail Salahi, Tareq's older half-brother from Dirgham's previous marriage, was partially raised by Corinne and now practices anesthesiology in Florida. The brothers became estranged in recent years due to disputes about the ownership of the Oasis Winery, and have not spoken to one another since 2004.[32][61]

Tareq attended the Randolph-Macon Academy, graduating in 1987. He subsequently graduated from the University of California, Davis, in 1994 with a bachelor's degree in a self-designed "individual major" that combined business management and oenology.[40][62][63][64]

Oasis Winery

In 1977, the Salahi family founded the Oasis Winery on their estate farm in Hume, Virginia. They planted some of the first Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot vines in Virginia, establishing the fifth winery in the commonwealth.[65] Tareq Salahi became the managing director in 1994 as his father began to "coast into retirement".[40]

The vineyard's Meritage line won Gold Medals at the 1994 and 1996 world wine championships. In 1998, Oasis launched a Cuvee "Celebration" sparkling wine which also garnered top awards.[66]

Over time, the vineyard and winery expanded and the estate was developed to raise ancillary income as a venue for polo events and other functions. The Washington Post reported that Tareq "started calling "himself 'president' of the Company and 'owner' of the winery, although he never held more than a 5% minority interest," according to his parents' lawsuit."[32]

In 2005, health problems caused Dirgham to step down as head, giving Corrine a more active role in the winery. Tareq and Corrine feuded bitterly and the dispute ended up bankrupting the operation. Disputes with neighbors added another $2 million to the winery's legal bills.[32][59][67]

On November 27, 2007, Fauquier County Judge Jeffrey W. Parker, who was overseeing the bankruptcy of the winery, approved the sale of the property and assets of Oasis Vineyard Inc. for $4.15 million to a partnership headed by his friend and real estate agent, Casey Margenau, that was to be run by Tareq. However, Margenau backed out: "When I looked at the disarray of the property and vines, and looked at the financials, I said, 'Tareq, you can't make this work. You couldn't pay the rent. You'd be defaulting to me, and we wouldn't be friends'."[59]

In a 2008 interview with the Loudoun Times-Mirror, Michaele Salahi suggested that she and Tareq were abandoning their stake in the winery, saying, "...what is going on is that Tareq is pulling the permits and walking away from the property."[68] Tareq and Michaele Salahi now say they plan to reopen Oasis to the public in 2010, but ownership apparently remains in dispute.[40][65]

Tareq's brother, Ismail, has stated that Tareq no longer owns the winery.[61] According to the Warren County Report, Oasis Winery is now controlled by Corinne Salahi.[69]

Public service

In 2000, Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore appointed Tareq Salahi to a three-year term on the Virginia Wine Board. At the conclusion of that term, Virginia Governor Mark Warner nominated Tareq as chairman of the Virginia Wine Tourism Office.

In April 2003, Tareq Salahi was named National Man of the Year for 2002 by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society as he had raised $120,000 for the organization.[32][70]

In 2006, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine in 2006 appointed Tareq Salahi as one of the fifteen board members of the Virginia Tourism Corporation, a "board that shapes Virginia's tourism policy". Kaine told MSNBC:

"Tareq had served on the state's wine board under both Gov. Gilmore and Gov. Warner, and when his term on the wine board finished, he and the tourism board wanted him on that board because he's a great promoter -- you won't be surprised to hear me say that."

During Tareq's time in office, the board created the Virginia Wineway, Loudoun Wine Trail, Blue Ridge Wineway and Virginia Wineries Alliance; according to a USDA study, these attracted 980,000 wine tourists to the state, of which 336,000 visited Piedmont wineries.[40][71][72][73][74][75][76][77]

According to the Huffington Post website, Salahi is a member of the board of the directors of the American Task Force on Palestine, though his biographic page on that organization's website has been erased. This group has been criticized as doing nothing more than "sponsoring polo matches."[78] A reputed screen grab of his biographic page on the organization's website is reproduced on the Talking Points Memo website.[79] The Salahis' America's Polo Cup site contains a media kit showing Tareq to be a current board member.[80][81]

Tareq Salahi is listed in the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts 2008 Annual Report as a member of the board of directors for Wolf Trap.[82]


Salahi describes himself as an experienced horseman who started show jumping at 5 and competed in numerous international Grand Prix events before taking up polo at 16. He alleges he was a regular competitor on the U.S. National Team and his Oasis squad won two U.S. Polo Association National Arena Titles in 1997 and 1998.[66]

In 1999, Salahi played on the American team at a polo match at Windsor Castle in Great Britain. He was afterwards invited to a private reception honoring HRH Prince Charles, then a player on the British team. At the exact moment that Salahi was to extend his hand to Charles for a simple “grip and grin” photo, an associate suddenly emerged from behind a curtain and thrust a magnum of Oasis Vineyards Special 2000 Millenium Sparkling Wine into the hands of the surprised prince.[67]

Other controversies

The Salahis are also embroiled in numerous other past and ongoing disputes.

Oasis-related issues

The Salahis have had numerous fights with their neighbors, stemming from the expansion of the winery and disputes over live music. By 2005, these disputes caused the Fauquier County, Virginia, Zoning Office to limit the winery's events to 12 wine tastings per year. Michaele Salahi then registered as a lobbyist in Richmond, where her efforts succeeded in passing House Bill 2643, removing the power of county zoning authorities to regulate "customary or usual" vineyard activities, such as wine dinners or weddings.[40][83][84]

On January 10, 2008, Tareq Salahi was arrested by Fauquier County sheriff's deputies on charges that in July 2007 he verbally abused Diane Weiss, an employee of the Oasis Winery. The charges were later dropped.[83]

In June 2008, Robb Levin successfully sued the Salahis for his August 2005 wedding at the Oasis Winery. They had grossly inflated the actual fees of subcontracted florists and caterers, then fined Levin for his attempts to make direct contracts with vendors instead. They also made unauthorized changes to the original contract he signed with them:

"I remember [the contract] being very short and it just said to hold the date. When I went back, I found it said they could charge my credit card at will. At the time I signed it I don't remember all those pages being there. I don't remember a whole 8- or 12-page document. There were thousands of dollars charged to my card with no explanation."

In November 2009, Levin said of his lawsuit, "The settlement was for $15,000, plus interest from June 2008. They haven't paid a penny."[85]

The Washington Post reported in December 2009,

Antonio Prospero, who owns a New York winery, sent Oasis about $50,000 in automated bottling equipment and sued when he wasn't paid; Oasis claimed the equipment was defective and countersued. The judge sided with Prospero last year, but Prospero said he still has not received a dime.[86]

Polo events

Courage Cup (2005)

The Salahis reportedly participated in organizing a charitable polo event, the Courage Cup, in 2005 with future New York state assemblyman Gregory R. Ball. Allegations later arose of non-payment to vendors, as well as misuse of proceeds from the event.[51][87][88] The Washington Post reported, "investigation later found that as much as $10,000 in ticket sales to the Poolesville, Md., match -- though widely advertised as benefiting polo training for underprivileged kids -- ended up in a political action campaign started by Ball, and eventually into his campaign treasury."[89][90][91]

America's Polo Cup (2007-2010)

During preparations for the 400th Anniversary of the founding of Jamestown in 2007, Salahi founded the America's Polo Cup, ostensibly to bring more attention to the sport.[92] However, other sources indicate that a dispute over control of the Courage Cup led the Salahis to create the America's Polo Cup.[51][90] Allegations of misuse of proceeds from the new charitable event arose, as well.[91][93] The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services opened an investigation of the Salahis' annual charitable polo event on December 3, 2009.[94][95]

The 2007 event caused wide dissatisfaction among many spectators who pre-paid for services and seats but did not receive them, or for whom the available food and drinks were insufficient and overpriced.[96]

In a 2008 filing, Sheila Johnson, the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television and proprietor of Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia, claimed in Loudoun County General District Court that Salahi owes more than $300,000 to her catering business for a 2008 America's Polo Cup event.

A Hume-based caterer, Jerome Farmer, told Washington Life that Salahi still owes him $30,000 for catering services for the 2009 America's Polo Cup.[13][51][52][59][83] Salahi has countercharged that Farmer owes him money. A trial date has been set in Fauquier County General District Court for March 24, 2010.[97]

The Salahis are accused of bouncing a $24,000 check for liquor purchased in Maryland for the May 2009 America's Polo Cup event. They returned over $10,000 of the merchandise but still owed nearly $13,000, according to a lawsuit filed on December 3, 2009, by the Montgomery County, Maryland, government.[98][99][100]

The Salahis claim that Land Rover is the main sponsor of America's Polo Cup. Although this was previously true, Land Rover denies any connection with the upcoming 2010 event as do other past sponsors such as Cartier and Ritz Carlton, calling it "fabrication".[101][102][103] The America's Polo Cup website continues to show the sponsors from previous years as if continuing their sponsorships, but these former sponsors have reportedly demanded that their logos be removed from the event's website.[104]

World Snow Polo Championship (2008)

Colorado rancher Barry Stout claims the Salahis owe him "$19,500 for their entry into last year's World Snow Polo Championship, held Dec. 20-21, 2008, in Aspen."[105][106]

Journey for the Cure Foundation

Tareq is listed as the director of the "Journey for the Cure Foundation." The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Consumer Affairs has issued a press release that cautions consumers that "Journey for the Cure Foundation, 14141 Hume Road, Hume, Virginia, has solicited contributions from Virginia citizens for allegedly charitable purposes. However, as of May 13, 2009, this organization has not registered with or been granted the appropriate exempt status by the Commissioner as required by law".[67][107][108][109]

The Journey for the Cure Foundation reported taking in $19,098.91 in donations in 2008, but disbursing just $690 to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and $20 to the U.S. Navy Memorial Fund. According to records filed with the Commonwealth of Virginia, the foundation spent $7,200 for professional fees, $5,300 for travel, $819 on office supplies, $1,200 on bank fees, and $5,823 on fundraising and meals.[110][111] Tareq Salahi told the Washington Post in 2008 that he had raised $250,000 for his charity, Journey for the Cure.[112]

Previous gatecrashing

In addition to the subject incident of this article, the Salahis allegedly crashed the September 26, 2009, dinner for the Congressional Black Caucus, where the couple posed for photos with Rep. Chuck Rangel and Star Jones before being asked to leave by security. On the December 1, 2009, Today Show, they claimed they were given tickets to that event by the Gardner Law Group, but caucus spokeswoman Muriel Cooper refuted that claim.[113][114]

Miscellaneous legal disputes

The Salahis are reported to be named in as many as 16 civil suits, according to[85] The Virginia Courts Case Information on-line database showed, as of December 12, 2009, 12 civil cases in Fauquier County and 1 in Loudoun County, Virginia, in which Tareq Salahi was listed as either the plaintiff or defendant. In total, members of the extended Salahi family and their family limited partnership were named in 23 lawsuits in Fauquier County as of that date. According to the Washington Post, "A review of court records throughout the Washington area shows that more than 30 lawsuits have been filed against the Salahis or their enterprises since 2004." [115] The Washington Post estimated that the value of claims in a known but incomplete list of existing court cases against the Salahis totaled approximately $700,000 as of December 2009.[38]

A police detective in Montgomery County, Virginia, said that when he investigated a complaint filed by the Salahis in 2009, a law enforcement database showed 41 records detailing the couple's previous contacts with police, with the Salahis often saying they were victims of wrongdoing. The detective noted in his report that Tareq Salahi sent him paperwork that the detective judged to be false. "The fact that Tareq Salahi would fabricate an 'invoice' rather than request another copy from the contractor caused the writer to question the veracity of the information given by the Salahis'," the detective wrote.[112][116]

Salahi won a court judgment "for $8,250 plus interest and fees...against David Cope, trading as DC Sports & Sponsorship, in Judge W. Dale Houff’s courtroom" on February 6, 2009. Cope's employer was ordered to garnish Cope's wages to satisfy the judgment. Cope's payments to Salahi were not reported to Salahi's attorney, however, who filed a “show cause” action that was retracted only after Salahi conceded that he had received some payments from Cope.[117]

Car repossessions

Tareq was charged with petty larceny by Warren County in the wake of an incident involving the attempted repossession of his Audi A8 automobile in 2008 for non-payment. Salahi accused the driver of the tow truck, Edward R. Beal, then of L & K Recovery in Centerville, Virginia, of assaulting Michaele. Beal accused Salahi of seizing the keys to the tow truck (the basis for the larceny charge) and sending Michaele into their house for a gun. According to the Warren County Report, Beal stated in his complaint to the court,

“I felt trapped. I couldn’t leave. I had to run and get away from him. He literally screamed at his wife. He yelled ‘Get the gun, get the gun.’ She didn’t go at first but then he screamed ‘Get the gun. Get the gun now! I said now!’”[118]

Warren County court records indicate that no gun was actually produced during the incident. Charges against Salahi will reportedly be dropped if he remains on good behavior until the next hearing on this case, scheduled for April 28, 2010.[118][119]

The Salahis also had a 2004 Aston Martin automobile repossessed in October 2008, according to Virginia court records. The car was worth $150,000, of which $85,000 remained to be paid.[27][85]

Lawn service and counterfeit watch

On December 4, 2009, Warren County Judge W. Dale Houff ordered Tareq Salahi to surrender the Patek Philippe Geneve watch he was wearing to the owner of A1A Home Improvement and Lawn Care Service, to whom he owed about $2,000, with the wristwatch to be held or sold to cover the debt.[63][120][121] The watch was allegedly worth $325,000.[121] Unfortunately for A1A the watch did not work, in addition to which Ray Cosey, owner of R E Jewelers Watch & Clock in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and Jean Plauger, owner of Jean’s Jewelers in Front Royal, Virginia, declared the watch a fake worth no more than $100.[122][123][124][125][126] An attorney for A1A subsequently reported that a bank check for $2,063.55 had been delivered December 7, 2009, that would cover the Salahis' debt. Judge Houff ordered the watch released, and David W. Silek, the Salahis' former attorney, confirmed it had been retrieved.[125][127][128][129][130] Silek later asserted that the watch was a gift from Tareq Salahi's brother, and that his client had believed it was genuine.[131]

Other debts

In addition to the unpaid salon bills from the Salahis' wedding in 2003, Michaele was sued in 2007 by a different hairstylist for the $4,000 fee "to update her long blond hair extensions" in a single "urgent" five-hour appointment; to accommodate her request, he had "human hair overnighted to his Georgetown salon, and at her insistence, worked from 7 p.m. until midnight on her now-famous locks". The judge decided in the stylist's favor, but the money remains unpaid.[86][132]

Travis Frantz, president of the 28-property Mosby's Overlook Estates homeowners association in Front Royal, put a lien on the Salahi home because they hadn't paid dues since the first year they moved in. The Salahis and HOA reached a settlement in mediation, but the HOA has yet to be paid. Frantz said sheriff's deputies have stopped at his house several times trying to serve papers on Tareq Salahi and wanting to know where they might find him.[89]

On January 8, 2010, Frederick County (Virginia) General District Court Judge David S. Whitacre ordered the Salahis to pay $1,039 owed to Terry and Velma Whitmire for an unpaid generator repair bill plus court costs. The Salahis did not appear in court, claiming that they had been snowed in, but the judge ruled against them in absentia after asking the bailiff to check on road conditions.[133][134]

Carlos Allen

A third uninvited person, Carlos Allen, a Washington, D.C. party planner and event organizer, entered the White House with a delegation of invited Indian business leaders. The group was transported from the Indian delegation's hotel by a private van under Secret Service escort, following vetting by the State Department, to the same state dinner reception that was attended by President Obama and the Salahis.[135] Allen is currently under investigation.[136][137][138][139][140] Initially, Allen denied having attended the event, but his entry was captured on videotape by WJLA-TV, a Washington television station, and his attorney, A. Scott Bolden, subsequently conceded Allen's attendance.[141][142] Allen eventually stated through his attorney that, unlike the Salahis, he stayed for dinner and was seated.[143] Photographs taken at the event show Allen seated at the same table as Om Prakash Bhatt, CEO of State Bank of India, Shehnaz Mansuri, a Chicago lawyer, Eboo Patel, a member of President Obama's Faith Advisory Council, Robin Roberts, a television journalist with ABC, and U.S. Ambassador to Belize Vinai Thummalapally and his wife, Barbara.[144][145][146]

Although another photograph of Allen with Michaele Salahi at a different event was quickly discovered on Allen's website, Allen denied through his attorney any connection with the Salahis in relation to his attendance of the White House state dinner reception, and additionally claimed to have been invited.[143][147][148] [149] Bolden informed media,

"My client had an invitation. He received an invitation in the mail. That's his story, that he was appropriately and properly credentialed, he cleared security with the Secret Service at some point in time, and was allowed into the reception, stayed for the dinner, stayed for the performance, and left. He is not a gate crasher. He is not a party crasher. He hasn't violated any rules. He believes he was appropriately there."[150]

The Washington Post reported that a photograph of Allen's purported invitation, which Allen shared with media, appears to be of the entertainment program provided to attendees at their tables, and not of a genuine invitation. The invitations were personalized and bore the name of the invitee.[151] The Post quoted White House historian Barry Landau as saying,

"The image that appeared on Good Morning America is the inside front page of the entertainment program...It was put at every place setting and does not represent, by any stretch of the imagination, an invitation to a state dinner at the White House."[151]

The Indian Embassy advised the press, "No such person was a member of the Indian delegation. The Embassy of India did not arrange his access."[141][152][153] The Secret Service confirmed to media that Allen was not in fact on the guest list.[141] According to the Wall Street Journal, State Department officials responsible for vetting a group of seven Indian businessmen invited to the event were confused when one of the group entered the White House separately, creating "a headcount issue...People expected seven [CEOs] and didn't know [one] went through another entrance." Allen was reportedly assumed to be the seventh Indian businessman in the group.[154]

General aftermath

After the gatecrashing event became widely known, the Secret Service, Bravo (the cable channel) and the Salahis were all criticized for their lapses in protocol.

Social criticism

Ellis Henican, a columnist for Newsday, called the Salahis "low-class, high-gloss wannabes", and said the matter amounted to "a new low" for reality television and the depths people will resort to for fame.[155] The New York Daily News criticized Bravo for "settling for [the] bottom of [the] social ladder" in its casting policy for the Real Wives program.[156]

The New York Times characterized the gatecrash as a gross breach of social protocol in the nation's capital, thus:

"...when Ms. Salahi strutted onto the South Lawn in that bright red lehenga, she and her husband breached far more than a secure perimeter.

"They also trampled countless protocols that are the social, business and networking bedrock of official Washington. Essentially, the couple used the mixed martial arts approach to upward mobility in a town that still cherishes the Marquess of Queensberry rules."[157]

However, Maureen Dowd, a New York Times columnist, used the incident to cast aspersions on Washington society, writing,

"...even the outrage over the fakers is fake. The capital has turned up its nose at the tacky trompe l’oeil Virginia horse-country socialites: a faux Redskins cheerleader and a faux successful businessman auditioning for a “reality” show by feigning a White House invitation...Yet Washington has always been a town full of poseurs, arrivistes, fame-seekers, cheaters and camera hogs."[158]

Security lapses

Reactions to the Salahi incident

Indian security officials expressed shock at the apparent breach of security. An anonymous Indian official told the Economic Times, part of the Times of India media group,

"We are glad that it happened in the US. If such a security breach had happened out here in Hyderabad House, or even Vigyan Bhavan, we would have never heard the end of it and heads would have rolled. How such a breach in the most important official residence in the world happened is something all of us are very keen to know."[159]

Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan issued a statement on November 27 saying that the Secret Service was "deeply concerned and embarrassed by the circumstances surrounding the State Dinner". Sullivan's statement also pointed out that "the preliminary findings of our internal investigation have determined established protocols were not followed at an initial checkpoint, verifying that two individuals were on the guest list."[30] Newsweek further reported, "The White House staff member whose job was to supervise the guest list for state dinners and clear invitees into the events says she was stripped of most of her responsibilities earlier this year, prompting her to resign last June."[160] Fox News conducted a public opinion poll that showed the incident damaged public confidence in the Secret Service, though more respondents blamed the White House staff for the alleged breach than blamed the Secret Service.[161] The Washington Post reported that 48% of African American respondents to a poll indicated a lack of faith in the Secret Service's ability to protect President Obama due to the Salahis' ability to enter the White House.[162]

Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, wrote a letter to the House Committee on Homeland Security requesting an investigation into this incident.[30] The Secret Service is also considering criminal charges against the Salahis.[163]

Secret Service Director Sullivan put three identified employees on administrative leave. Sullivan testified at the December 3 hearing that the White House and Secret Service collaboratively planned security protocols for the state dinner.[164]

In a televised interview on the CBS program 60 Minutes that aired December 13, 2009, President Obama termed the gatecrash a "screw-up", expressed anger that it had taken place, and vowed that such incidents would not occur again.[165]

The incident also resulted in criticism of the White House for an alleged lack of transparency, due to the Administration's unwillingness to allow the White House social secretary to testify before Congress.[18][166][167]

Reactions to the Carlos Allen incident

While to much of the public the Salahis' alleged gatecrash appeared to be an affair that could be laughed off, the revelation of a third alleged gatecrasher at the same event raised concern about the ability of the Secret Service to secure access to the White House.[168] Influential newspaper columnist Sally Quinn called for "accountability" and suggested that White House social secretary Desirée Rogers and Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan should either resign or be fired.[169] The Houston Chronicle called it "no laughing matter" and stated in an opinion editorial,

"The White House should be the most secure building in this country. There should be zero tolerance for breaches of security that put this or any president in harm's way. To think that three individuals made it through in one evening is disconcerting."[170]

Previous 2009 gatecrash incidents

The Dardens

After the Salahi incident became public, Harvey and Paula Darden came forward to the press about a similar lapse in White House security in November 2009. The Dardens were uneasy because they thought they had done essentially the same thing.

Intending to attend a tour arranged by their congressman, the Dardens mistakenly came one day early. They were ushered into an official breakfast for military veterans where they met President Obama, despite not being on the guest list for the event. However, the Dardens had not deliberately trespassed, and spoke up as soon as they realized the mistake.

"I told him, 'I don't think this is part of the White House tour,'" Darden said. "He said, 'No it's not. It's an invitation event for veterans.'" The official, whose name and title Darden didn't remember, asked whether Darden was a veteran. Darden told him he was a Navy veteran, and the aide suggested he stay, Darden said.

A spokesman for the Secret Service has since said that the Dardens underwent a criminal background check on arrival, like all of the invited breakfast guests on that day but unlike the Salahis at the later state dinner. A White House spokesman has added that because the Dardens cleared the screening, they were permitted to stay as "a nice gesture", and that "it's not unusual for White House staff to take people who are cleared in for tours to other events if there is space, including Marine One arrivals, East Room events and Rose Garden ceremonies."[171][172]

Personal repercussions for the Salahis

The widespread publicity that followed the incident also created a huge wave of interest in the personal lives and business dealings of Tareq and Michaele Salahi. By the end of December 2009, the Washington Post alone had assigned more than a dozen reporters to investigate them.[38]

Alleged request for interview fees

On the Monday following the incident, the Salahis were scheduled to appear on the Larry King Live television program, but their interview was canceled. Reports surfaced that the Salahis were soliciting monetary bids in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for interview rights.[43][60][173][174] The Salahis later denied these allegations.[113][173]

Oasis Winery

The Oasis Winery soon received several "disturbing" phone calls from individuals apparently annoyed by the Salahis' alleged gatecrash of the state dinner. One caller referred to the Salahis as terrorists. On November 29, 2009, winery employee Diane Weiss told the Warren County Report that while the calls were not threatening, they caused her to unplug the telephone. She added,

"Tareq and Michaele have no affiliation with Oasis anymore...In Feb. 2008 the courts removed them from any affiliation with Oasis Winery...I just don’t want some crackpot coming up here thinking Tareq and Michaele are part of Oasis Winery anymore. They don’t live here or work here or have anything to do with us."[175]

2010 Polo Cup World Championship

On December 3, 2009, Indian Embassy spokesman Rahul Chhabra announced that India had canceled its planned participation in the 2010 Polo Cup World Championship (an apparent reference to the America's Polo Cup), a charitable event organized by the Salahis.[104][176] Fox News subsequently reported that the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs is investigating a complaint by a Singapore business man that the Salahis continued to sell tables and tickets for the event, even after India had withdrawn.[133]

Virginia Tourism Board

After the incident, Gov. Tim Kaine intimated to the Washington Post that he directed Secretary of the Commonwealth Kate Hanley to ask Tareq for his resignation from the board.[177] Virginia Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment also wrote a letter asking Gov. Kaine to remove Tareq from the board:

"Mr. Salahi's recent outrageous behavior and personal promotion in regards to trespassing in the White House is not the face we need for Virginia tourism…I would appreciate you taking swift action to avoid any further negative situations."[178]

Salahi resigned from the Virginia Tourism Board on December 7, 2009. In an e-mail to Governor Kaine, he wrote:

"Due to the extraordinary misinformation resulting in the unfortunate negative and tabloid type media surrounding our attendance at the White House on November 24, 2009 and attendant issues thereto, I believe that my continued service to the Commonwealth of Virginia by serving as one of your Board of Directors for the Virginia Tourism Authority (VTC) could possibly be a distraction to all of the good work of the Tourism Authority Board.

"It is with hope of the continued success of the Virginia Tourism Corporation that I tender my resignation effective immediately. I have enjoyed my years of proud volunteer service to the Commonwealth of Virginia serving under Governor Kaine and the last three consecutive Governors in my various political appointments."[179][180]

Alleged bullying

Following the incident, the NoVa Media Watch reported on multiple alleged cases of the Salahis or their surrogates bullying and threatening legal action against both creditors demanding payment and media outlets reporting on court proceedings against the Salahis.[181]

Loss of prestige

A USA Today/Gallup Poll conducted December 11-13, 2009, of 1,025 adults in the United States revealed that 70% of respondents considered the Salahis "losers" politically as a result of their alleged White House breach, versus 16% who considered them "winners". Of the 13 choices offered in the poll, the Salahis yielded the lowest score.[182]

Reality television

Bravo channel planned to conduct a public-opinion poll to determine probable audience reaction to inclusion of the Salahis in its The Real Housewives of Washington, D.C. program. However, the poll was reportedly canceled. According to Bravo, a decision on whether to include the Salahis in the cast remains to be made.[183][184]

Las Vegas nightclub hosting

The Las Vegas, Nevada nightclub Pure in the casino Caesar's Palace announced January 7, 2010, that the Salahis would serve as the "celebrity hosts" of that establishment the following January 16th. Media reported that the Salahis are to be paid $5,000 for their appearance.[185][186][187][188][189][190][191]

Formal investigation

On December 1, 2009, The Washington Post reported that the Secret Service found email exchanges between the Salahis and Michele S. Jones, special assistant to the Secretary Defense and the Pentagon-based liaison to the White House; Jones specifically told the Salahis not to come because she had no authority to grant admittance.[192] That morning, the Salahis appeared on the Today show on NBC, interviewed by Matt Lauer.[113] When Lauer asked the couple whether they were invited to the dinner, Michaele stated, "...we were invited, not crashers and there isn't anyone that would have the audacity or the poor behavior to do that", and Tareq asserted that the Gardner Law Group invited them. Michaele also claimed victimization: "Everything we worked for, Matt -- for me 44 years just destroyed." The Salahis also asserted that they had received no payment in return for granting the interview.[113][173]

Tareq and Michaele Salahi were requested by the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee to appear at a hearing on December 3, 2009, but they refused to attend.[193] In the wake of the Salahis' refusal to testify, Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, defeated Republican efforts to subpoena White House social secretary Desirée Rogers and to hold the Secret Service officially responsible for the Salahis' unathorized entry.[194] He also formally began a process to subpoena the Salahis. On December 9, 2009, the Committee on Homeland Security voted 26 to 3 to subpoena Tareq Salahi, and 27 to 2 to subpoena Michaele, for a hearing on the alleged gatecrash scheduled for January 20, 2010. The Salahis' attorney advised that the Salahis would invoke the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, however.[195][196]

White House Principal Deputy Counsel Daniel J. Meltzer stated in a December 23, 2009, letter to the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security,

We have found no evidence the Salahis were included on any White House access list or guest list. The Salahis were not on the lists for the State Dinner, the Arrival Ceremony, or any other event scheduled for November 24. Indeed there is no record of the Salahis in the White House visitor access system since the beginning of the Obama Administration. Moreover, we have found no evidence that the Salahis called the White House and asked about the proper dress code for the State Dinner.[23]

On January 8, 2010, media reported that a federal grand jury had been convened to investigate the apparent security breach by the Salahis. Erwin Gomez and Peggy Ioakim of the Erwin Gomez Salon and Spa were subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury.[197][198][199][200] Politico reported that the subpoena does not mention the Salahis, but "says that the grand jury is investigating a possible violation of 18 USC 1001, a federal statute that covers lying to a government official."[201] Article 1001 of Title 18 of the United States Code states in part,

Sec. 1001. Statements or entries generally (a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully-- (1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact; (2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or (3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry; shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both. [202]

In an interview by Robin Roberts on ABC's Good Morning America television program broadcast January 10, 2010, Carlos Allen's attorney called Allen a "cooperating witness" and stated that Allen is not a subject of the grand jury investigation.[203] [204][205]

Cultural references

The Salahi surname has entered the language as a synonym of "to gatecrash".[206][207] Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Mark Helprin, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank, offered the following possible tongue-in-cheek dictionary entry:

To Salahi: v. U.S. [after 21st century reality-show aspirants Michaele and Tareq Salahi] 1. intrans. to gain entrance to an event or gathering to which one is not invited. "They Salahied into the Bar-Mitzvah even though they didn't know the Goldblatt boy, and ate most of the chopped-liver sculpture of Elvis." Shakespeare, Sonnet MMIX. 2. in a general sense to appear where one is not welcome. "Michael Moore Salahied into George and Laura Bush's second honeymoon to lecture the former president about justice for the undocumented immigrants held at Guantanamo." Chomsky, Profiles in Courage. 3. to forge, fake or pretend, especially in hope of achieving a contemptible or pathetic objective that is simultaneously a comment upon the corruption and distastefulness of a particular individual and society itself. trans. "To elevate his chances of becoming a Chippendales dancer, Arnold Toynbee Salahied a letter of recommendation from Rosa Luxemburg. Al Franken, An Intellectual History of the United States.[208]

In the opening segment of the December 5, 2009, episode of Saturday Night Live, Tareq was portrayed by Bobby Moynihan and Michaele by Kristen Wiig as interlopers who got on stage at a Barack Obama speech in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and posed for various pictures behind the President with Secret Service special agents and Vice-President Joe Biden. At one point in the skit they ask the President to stop his speech and snap a group shot of all of them.[209][210]

The monologue of The Late Show With David Letterman has brought up the Salahis as parody.[211][212] NBC's Washington, D.C., affiliate posted on its website parody photographs of well known American events into which images of the Salahis had been edited.[213]

TV Squad listed this incident as one of the top four "reality scandals" of 2009.[214] The Huffington Post ranked the incident fourth on its list of "Rubbernecking's Top Ten Pop Culture Moments of 2009".[215]

Political satirist Dave Barry included the following mention of the incident in his wrapup of major "lowlights" of 2009:

... a Washington couple, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, penetrate heavy security and enter the White House, a feat that Joe Biden has yet to manage. As details of the incident emerge, an embarrassed Secret Service is forced to admit that not only did the couple crash a state dinner, but they also met and shook hands with the president, and they "may have served briefly in the Cabinet."[216]

The Washington Post's "Reliable Source" gossip column chose Tareq and Michaele Salahi as its Persons of the Year for 2009, saying,

...the Salahis took what could have been an enjoyably seedy little horse-country melodrama and catapulted it into the gossip stratosphere with one fateful night at the White House that exposed the dark secrets of our decade's major growth industries: national security and reality television.[217]

See also


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External links

Salahis' Facebook page related to the incident


Oasis Winery Websites


Government Websites


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