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White House party crashers insist they were invited to state dinner

December 1, 2009 |  5:33 am

The Virginia couple accused of crashing a state dinner at the White House last week told NBC’s Matt Lauer  they were invited to the event and that they were pained by the portrayal of them in the press as social climbers who went there seeking attention.

“This has been the most devastating thing that’s ever happened to us,” Tareq Salahi told Lauer on the “Today" show. “We’re greatly saddened by all the circumstances that have been involved and portraying my wife and I as party crashers – I can tell you, we did not party crash the White House.”

“Right now it’s just been really unbearable to go through,” Michaele Salahi said, adding: “We were invited, not crashers. And there isn’t anyone that would have the audacity or poor behavior to do that. The White House is the house. And no one would do that, and certainly not us.”  

The couple said they could not yet go into details, saying they are cooperating with the Secret Service but added that they are sure they will be exonerated.

“The truth will soon come out,” said Tareq Salahi, who said he had e-mails that document their side of the story. “In our view it’s clear to us, and based on the timeline. I think the American public is actually going to be extremely surprised with all the details that went from beginning to end in what was supposed to be a lovely evening.”

The sought-after interview was the first by the couple since the news broke last week that the Salahis had managed to enter the White House without being on the official guest list. The couple had first been booked to appear on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” but canceled that interview amid reports that they were seeking to be paid for their appearance. On “Today,” Lauer took pains to solicit assurances by the Salahis that they had not been paid by NBC, whose sister network, Bravo, is developing a reality show the couple was hoping to be cast on.

“You are not,” said Michaele Salahi. “At no time have we ever talked about doing that.”

The couple said they’d been horrified by the maelstrom of attention. “Our lives have been destroyed,” Michaele Salahi said. “Everything we worked for, Matt, for me, 44 years, just destroyed.”

-- Matea Gold


State dinner crashers exchanged e-mails with Pentagon official