Obviously White House party crashers Michaele and Tareq Salahi became the fun little diversionary story over the holiday weekend, albeit one with some serious implications.
In case you were too busy trying to run down $499 flat screens, the skinny is a Washington couple, Michaele and Tareq Salahi, managed to get into Tuesday night’s state dinner for the Prime Minister for India though they were not invited. (A lawyer for the couple claimed late last week they were cleared to attend the event.) They also got their pictures taken with President Barack Obama and Vice-president Joe Biden and have advanced a goal of transcending the Washington social scene to grab 15 minutes, and maybe more, of national fame. We say maybe more because Michaele is angling to be in the cast of Bravo’s latest “Real Housewives” series, “The Real Housewives of Washington D.C.”
Ha, ha. A social-climbing couple crashes the White House party. It sounds like an amusing story until you consider what it says about the security around a President who has received 400 percent more death threats than any other Commander-in-Chief. What if the party crashers had been people with more sinister intentions than being reality TV stars?
Listening to chatter about the incident on “Morning Joe,” two big questions popped into my mind:
~ They weren’t asked for invitations? I have never attended a state dinner at the White House, but I have been to pretty tightly secured events in this job. When I attended such events, I was asked for tickets, invitations or other credentials to prove I was supposed to be there at every check point: to park my car, to enter the building, to enter the event, and any security stop. So, you’re telling me the Secret Service’s security procedures aren’t as tight as performances and soirees that are fairly mundane compared to state dinners?
~ Seriously? Bravo didn’t know? A Bravo camera crew followed Michaele all day as she prepared for the event, and then reportedly peeled off as the couple’s limo approached the White House. The network claims it thought the Salahi’s were invited guests. But if that were the case, are we supposed to believe Bravo never made an attempt to get a camera crew into the dinner? “Real Housewives” is not journalism, of course. But they are telling a story. If I were covering the story of the Salahi’s, I would have attempted to gain access to the event through the White House press office, at which point I presumably would have been told they were not on the guest list. Though “Real Housewives” probably would have been turned down by the White House, as they should be, it’s hard to believe they didn’t at least inquire about getting a camera crew in there to film them hobnobbing with the President.
There is another question now for Bravo: Obviously having the White House party crashers on “Real Housewives” will raise interest in the show. But should the Salahi’s stunt be rewarded with a spot on the show — we ask this knowing what usually wins in the tug of war between morality and ratings.
We’ll probably find out more about the Salahi’s and this incident, and get answers to some of these nagging questions, as we put the holiday week behind us and everyone gets back to work.
UPDATE: NPR news reports a representative of the White House Social Secretary’s Office will be at the door with a list of invited guests for all future events. If you’re not on the list, you don’t get in. Shocking that this wasn’t already being done.