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Tareq and Michaele Salahi, White House partiers, not going away

The couple who allegedly crashed the White House state dinner last week, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, have been invited to testify Thursday before the House Homeland Security Committee. They'd also like to appear on the 'Today' show again.

By , Gordon LuboldStaff writers / December 1, 2009

Tareq and Michaele Salahi appear Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show. The couple that got into the White House state dinner for the visiting Indian prime minister without invitations denied that they were gatecrashers. Appearing on the same program, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs insisted the Salahis had not been invited.

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Washington

Tareq and Michaele Salahi are way into overtime on their 15 minutes of fame.

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The Virginia couple who allegedly crashed the White House state dinner last week appeared on NBC’s “Today” show Tuesday. They maintained that they were invited, not wannabes.

“The truth will soon come out,” Mr. Salahi said, adding that he and his wife are cooperating with the Secret Service in its investigation.

“I can tell you this is the most devastating thing that has ever happened to us,” Salahi said.

He said he and his wife have handed over “documentation” to the Secret Service – no doubt the e-mails they had exchanged with a top Pentagon official whose help the Salahis had sought to gain access to the event honoring the prime minister of India. The official, Michele Jones, has said she never stated or implied that the Salahis could attend any portion of the event.

Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, also stated categorically Tuesday on “Today” that the Salahis were not invited, and there was no misunderstanding. “I think the matter should be looked into criminally,” he said.

Both the White House and the Secret Service are investigating their procedures – to determine how two people could have made their way past two White House security checkpoints and all the way to the president without an invitation.

Like it or not, the American public still has plenty of face time with the Salahis to look forward to. The couple has been invited to testify on Thursday before the House Homeland Security Committee, along with Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan and White House social secretary Desiree Rogers.

Salahi also made clear that he and his wife are not finished with the “Today” show. He told host Matt Lauer: “We’re going to be coming up to New York, sitting on your couch. We’re going to show you documentation from e-mails that, you know, you’ll get a chance to see.”

There is no doubt the Salahis are fame-seekers. Mrs. Salahi has been trying to land a spot on the planned Bravo reality TV show “Real Housewives of D.C.,” and she had a camera crew in tow as she and her husband prepared to go to the White House. (Note: Bravo TV is owned by NBC Universal.)

But the fact is that their ability to get into the White House, apparently uninvited, has made them newsworthy. Thus, their Warholian stretch in the limelight drags on, and the news media will continue to cover them.

Ms. Jones, a special assistant to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and liaison to the White House, is also now getting her 15 minutes of fame, as the Pentagon official who exchanged e-mails with the Salahis. She, however, seems less than pleased that she has been dragged into the drama.

“I did not state at any time, or imply that I had tickets for ANY portion of the evening’s events,” Jones said in a statement released Monday by the White House. A senior defense official at the Pentagon who is familiar with the e-mail exchanges backs up Jones’s assertion.

“I think [the Salahis] are grasping at straws here,” says the senior official, who asked not to be named because he was talking about an ongoing investigation. “There was never any suggestion by the office here or by Michele Jones that she could help them get into the dinner.”

Jones is a respected official who joined the Pentagon in July after retiring from the Army Reserve in 2007 as a sergeant major – the senior-most enlisted rank. In fact, she was the first female command sergeant major in the Army Reserve. Officials characterize her as likable and as a take-no-guff retired military senior noncommissioned officer. As special assistant to Mr. Gates, she actually works for the White House but is based at the Pentagon to help coordinate events and protocol between the Pentagon and White House.

See also:

White House party crashers fit a new mold: Fame at all costs

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