Couple that crashed state dinner met, spoke with Obama
Update (at bottom): House Oversight committee to probe Secret Service
The two aspiring reality TV stars who gatecrashed a state dinner this week met President Barack Obama at the event, a White House photograph showed.
The US Secret Service meanwhile issued an unusual mea culpa for the security lapse Tuesday at the White House State Dinner in honor of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, with director Mark Sullivan admitting the agency was “embarrassed” by the incident.
The photo released by the White House showed a smiling Obama greeting the allegedly uninvited couple, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, at a reception line at the event. Singh is seen standing next to Obama.
The president has ordered a full review of the incident, according to the Politico news website, citing an Obama aide.
An internal Secret Service investigation is ongoing.
The pair beat several layers of security to attend the dinner, and Sullivan acknowledged Friday that according to an agency probe, protocols were not followed at a security checkpoint to verify if the couple was invited.
“The Secret Service is deeply concerned and embarrassed by the circumstances surrounding the State Dinner,” Sullivan said in a statement.
The Salahis boasted of turning up at the A-list event on their joint Facebook page with the message “honored to be at the White House for the state dinner in honor of India with President Obama and our First Lady!”
Sporting a black dinner jacket and a flowing red and gold sari respectively, the couple posted photos posing with Vice President Joe Biden, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel — whom they mistakenly identified as “Ron Emanuel” — and even three uniformed marines.
“Although these individuals went through magnetometers and other levels of screening, they should have been prohibited from entering the event entirely. That failing is ours,” Sullivan said.
Secret Service agents meanwhile visited a winery in Virginia on Friday in a bid to question the couple, who listed the address as their residence, although they hadn’t lived there since 2006, the local Warren County Report said.
“We are not here to arrest the Salahis today,” Oasis Winery manager Diane Weiss quoted one of the Secret Service agents as saying, according to the Report.
“It is imperative that we speak with them. If they do not sit down with us and talk we will take whatever action necessary,” the agent added, according to Weiss.
The security breach could not have come during a more embarrassing occasion for the Secret Service than the dinner attended by 300 high-profile guests — including Obama cabinet members, diplomats and Hollywood celebrities — a major event in Washington’s social calendar.
Sullivan noted that while the Secret Service processed over 1.2 million visitors to the White House last year, the agency needs be right “100 percent of the time.”
As the internal “investigation continues, appropriate measures have been taken to ensure this is not repeated,” he said.
The Washington Post earlier described the Salahis as polo-playing socialites from nearby northern Virginia who could be cast in the forthcoming “Real Housewives of Washington” reality TV show.
Update: House Oversight committee to probe Secret Service
Congressman Ed Towns (D-NY), who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, said he will probe the Secret Service after two uninvited guests slipped past security and met the president.
“This incident compromised the safety and security of the President and undermined our confidence in the protection we expect of the Secret Service,” he said, according to Politico.
The Obama White House is also investigating the Secret Service’s security procedures.