By Frazier Moore
NEW YORK — Aspiring reality-TV star Michaele Salahi and her polo-playing husband, Tareq, made a debut of sorts Tuesday morning, stepping in to fill the role of TV’s reigning fun couple, lately vacated by the Gosselins when “Jon & Kate Plus 8” came to an end.
From an unspecified Washington sitting room (shades of the couch confessionals on “Jon & Kate”!), the Salahis spoke with “Today” host Matt Lauer, up in New York.
They were short on hard facts, but solemn and insistent that they weren’t the White House party crashers everybody thinks they are.
Theirs was stark testimony, aimed at softening public opinion rock-hardened against them.
Maybe it also was a desperate pitch to keep Michaele Salahi in the running for Bravo’s upcoming reality show, “The Real Housewives of D.C.” (Was the fact that they appeared on NBC, a sister network of Bravo, more than coincidence? Absolutely not, say Bravo’s Johanna Fuentes and NBC News’ Megan Kopf.)
For the interview, Tareq, fleshy with an unctuous air, and Michaele, blond and razor-thin, were both garbed in sedate black.
They agreed that the uproar over their alleged invasion of the White House for a state dinner last week has been “devastating” to them.
“Our lives have been destroyed,” Michaele declared.
Exhibiting a much different persona than the outrageous social gadfly who would fit into a “Housewives of D.C.” sisterhood, she, with her husband, landed several minutes of the TV face-time she apparently craves.
And there’s likely an encore in sight: Tareq Salahi promised Lauer the couple would visit him in person on the program “in the next several days” with proof in hand that they were indeed invited guests at the White House.
“We look forward to having you here,” said Lauer warmly.
Will Bravo be so welcoming?
Bravo says no decisions have been made on who will make the final cut on “The Housewives of D.C.”
But for weeks, Salahi has been bird-dogged by a camera crew from the company producing the show. She was filmed as recently as last Tuesday during her preparations for the state dinner she and her husband would attend hours later.
Did the Salahis crash that White House party?
“There isn’t anyone that would have the audacity or the poor behavior to do that,” she told Lauer.
The White House, which denies the Salahis had an invitation, would vigorously disagree with her, as would most anybody else within earshot.
At the moment, top-level investigations are beginning, the Secret Service is red-faced, and President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are reportedly pretty steamed. Until evidence proves otherwise, it seems that the leader of the free world was punk’d right where he lives — the world’s most famous residence — while the Salahis made monkeys of the people sworn to keep the First Family safe.
Since then, the Salahis have become what they apparently longed to be — household names — though “world’s most famous gate crashers” isn’t the way they would have chosen.
Maybe they should have been careful what they wished for.
They are being hounded by the press and paparazzi, they told Lauer. In particular, said Tareq Salahi, blind to its irony, “Our homes have been invaded.”
However useful in exposing White House security lapses, the Salahis shouldn’t expect a thank-you note from the Secret Service. On the contrary, they may have made some powerful Beltway enemies, going all the way to the top. (Surely Richard Nixon isn’t the only president to keep an Enemies List, and he put names on it for far less than the Salahis’ presumed offense.)
Should they be surprised if their tax returns are audited for the foreseeable future? Should they brace themselves for protracted delays at airport security and resign themselves to a mysterious van routinely parked outside their house? (For anyone who has ever read a spy novel or thriller, the imagination soars.)
Meanwhile, would a cable network whose hydra-headed corporate parent counts on Washington for such things as favorable regulation and fat defense contracts want to tie itself to a “D.C. housewife” who royally ticked off the feds?
Already, some lawmakers have asked that criminal charges be brought against the Salahis. Maybe they’ll be prosecuted. Maybe they won’t.
Either way, how long will it be before Bravo unveils the D.C. housewives, with Michaele Salahi among the uninvited? Could be she’s done the near-impossible in reality TV: crossed the line from attention-getter on a grand scale, to just not worth the trouble.