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Video: Salahis: ‘We were invited, not crashers’

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    >> thank you very much. michaele and tareq salahi are now with us exclusively. mr. and mrs. salahi, thank you for joining us.

    >> good morning, matt.

    >> good morning, matt. thank you for having us.

    >> it's my pleasure. let me start with a question. based on some of the things that have been reported over the last 48 or 72 hours , i feel the need to say this and ask this. are you appearing here today in any way because of any financial deal that you have made with this network? are we paying you for this appearance in any way?

    >> no, you're not.

    >> no, absolutely not.

    >> all right. let me go --

    >> and at no time, matt, have we ever even talked about doing that with anyone.

    >> let me go to thursday morning, okay? so, the state dinner is over, you've gone there, you've had your photos taken, you've shaken hands with the president. and now you wake up on thursday morning to the headlines that say " white house party crashers." what was your reaction when you saw the headlines?

    >> devastated.

    >> very saddened to see that.

    >> why, why devastated?

    >> shocked, devastated. we knew the facts, which with time, you know, our side of the story, and everything will be heard. and right now, it's just been really unbearable to go through.

    >> when you see in addition to the headlines some of the things that have been reported about the two of you -- and i'll be blunt about it, have not been at all positive. in fact, they've been extremely negative. do you feel as if you've been mischaracterized in the media?

    >> no question. i mean, you know, unfortunately, we've been mischaracterized, you know, through the media and other paparazzi forums, and you know, our homes have been invaded, and it's been just devastating what's happened to michaele and i, our friends, our colleagues, our business partners.

    >> our lives have been destroyed.

    >> our lives have really been destroyed.

    >> everything we worked for, matt. for me, 44 years just destroyed.

    >> there are some hurdles you still have to clear, and you were clear with me on the phone about that, that there are some meetings you still have to have before you can talk in explicit detail about every aspect of this story. but at the center of everything is a simple question, and the question is, were you or were you not invited to attend that state dinner ? how do you answer that?

    >> well, we were invited, not crashers, and there isn't anyone that would have the audacity or the poor behavior to do that. the white house is the most -- it is the house, and no one would do that.

    >> who invited you?

    >> and certainly not us. well, that's --

    >> well, matt, one of the things that we're doing is we're working closely with the secret service in their internal investigation and --

    >> respect everything they do.

    >> we're respecting their timeline and we're working on their timeline --

    >> the thing to do.

    >> and we want to get through that process. we've been very candid with them. we've turned over documentation to them, and we'll continue to work with the u.s. secret service completely all the way through this process.

    >> you've heard the statement that was issued by michele jones, who's a senior pentagon official, who said, "i did not state at any time or imply that i had tickets for any portion of the evening's events. i specifically stated they did not have tickets, in fact, that i did not have the authority to authorize attendance, ad missance, access to any part of the evening's activities. even though i informed them of this, they still decided to come." i even heard reports she left you a voice mail saying pretty much the same thing. do you disagree with what michele jones says in that statement?

    >> well, what we're going to do, we're going to definitely work with the secret service and, you know, and our -- and you know, between michaele and i on this to really shed light on this, and 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.

    >> this documentation, tareq , i want to see if i can be a little more specific on this. i know you've got these e-mails. are these e-mails that are unequivocal, in your mind, or are they open to interpretation? in other words, if anyone looks at these, are they going to say, wow, yes, they had clearance to attend, or might that be your point of view reading them and other people might look at them and say this is a game of semantics here?

    >> no, 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 into what was supposed to be a lovely, beautiful evening.

    >> lifetime memory.

    >> you know, a lifetime memory. so, you know, we're prepared to be coming up there, hopefully very soon.

    >> just a couple more. let me ask you about this report that's coming up this morning that on september 26th , the two of you attended another event, the congressional black caucus dinner. reports are you were uninvited to that and were escorted out. we have a photograph of you that was taken alongside new york congressman charlie rangel . what was the reason for you attending that? were you invited?

    >> yes, we were invited. this is the first time i've ever heard, you know, another false accusation against my wife and i saying that we weren't invited there. we were invited there by the gardner law group. we were a guest of theirs, proud guest of theirs, and no. were we escorted out? of course not. that's another gossip rumor, just, unfortunately, how this story got started, through a gossip column .

    >> very painful.

    >> based your meetings yesterday with the secret service , do you feel as if you will be prosecuted or do you think you will be completely exonerated in this situation?

    >> i am certain we are going to be completely exonerated.

    >> and when do you think you'll be able to come up here and share details wiof the rest of this story?

    >> hopefully --

    >> michaele and i hope to do that in the very near term, you know. we hope within the next several days.

    >> we look forward to having you.

    >> whatever time they need, you know.

    >> we're definitely going to be working with the secret service on a timetable on that, but we are looking forward to coming to see you, matt.

    >> all right. tareq and michaele salahi. thank you very much for joining us this morning. i appreciate it.

    >> thank you, matt.

    >> thank you, matt.

    >>> let's get a check of

updated 12/1/2009 9:07:14 AM ET 2009-12-01T14:07:14

The most infamous party crashers in the world said Tuesday that they hate that label, denied they finagled their way into a White House state dinner and insisted that they were invited to the bash by a Washington law firm with ties to a senior Pentagon official.

“This has been the most devastating thing that’s ever happened to us,” Tareq Salahi, along with his wife Michaele, told Matt Lauer in the couple’s first television interview. “We’re greatly saddened by all the circumstances that have been involved in portraying my wife and I as party crashers. I can tell you we did not party crash the White House.”

The couple said they are reeling from the media attention. “Our lives have been destroyed, everything we’ve worked for, Matt,” Michaele Salahi said. “For me, 44 years, just destroyed.”

When asked point-blank whether or not they had been explicitly invited to the White House state dinner, Michaele answered that there was no ambiguity about the situation.

“We were invited, not crashers,” she said. “There isn’t anyone that would have the audacity or the poor behavior to do that … certainly not us.”

The couple’s appearance on TODAY comes a day after the House Homeland Security Committee invited the Salahis and the Secret Service to attend a hearing Thursday about the alleged security breach.

“We are cooperating extensively with the U.S. Secret Service on their internal review and investigation,” Tareq Salahi, 41, said, adding that the couple have turned over documentation showing that they were invited to the event. “The truth will come out.”

Not on guest list
If the Salahis attend and testify, committee members are expected to ask them detailed questions about how they managed to access the White House grounds via the Southeast Gate, enter through the East Wing and be photographed both with President Obama and the prime minister of India.

To the embarrassment of the White House and the Secret Service, the Salahis did all of that without holding a formal invitation or having their names on the official guest list for the Obama administration’s first state dinner.

On Monday, the Washington Post reported ties between the Salahis and a senior Pentagon official who campaigned for Obama and spoke at the Democratic National Convention last year. The newspaper found that the Salahis’ lawyer, Paul W. Gardner, was listed as a Facebook friend of Michele S. Jones, special assistant to the Secretary of Defense. Jones, a career military officer who serves as the Pentagon’s White House liaison, exchanged e-mails with the Salahis about the state dinner, but denies she promised them admittance.

“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 by the White House late Monday. “I specifically stated that they did not have tickets and in fact that I did not have the authority to authorize attendance, admittance or access to any part of the evening’s activities. Even though I informed them of this, they still decided to come.”

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Couple believe they were invited
The Salahis apparently saw things differently and told Lauer that they were working with the Secret Service to “shed light” on the situation.

“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,” said Tareq Salahi, adding that they would soon make public the contents of the alleged e-mail exchange.

“There was e-mail correspondence confirming they were legitimately supposed to be there,” Casey Margenau, a close friend of the couple, told the Washington Post. “They understood they were invited.”

Video: Gibbs: Crashers definitely were not invited White House press secretary Robert Gibbs responded Tuesday morning to claims that the Salahis believed that they were invited to the event.

“They were not on a list here at the White House,” he told Meredith Vieira. “They’d been told on a number of occasions that they did not have tickets for that dinner.”

Gibbs added that the matter is being looked into “criminally” and that the Secret Service is doing “anything humanly possible” to prevent another such breach of security.

Another incident?
The Salahis also denied reports that they had previously attended another high-profile event uninvited.

Late Monday, a Washington, D.C., television station reported that the Salahis crashed a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Awards dinner on Sept. 26 at which Obama spoke. The station’s Web site quoted a foundation representative, Lance Jones, as saying the Salahis were escorted out by security guards after they were caught sitting at a table paid for by other donors.

“Were we escorted out? Of course not,” Tareq Salahi scoffed. “That’s just another gossip, rumor, just unfortunately [the way] this story got started — through a gossip column.”

Slideshow: Guests, glitz at White House dinner The cable TV channel Bravo asked the caucus for permission to bring cameras into the event because they were evaluating potential cast members for the reality TV show “The Real Housewives of D.C.,” which Michaele Salahi has been trying to get on. The caucus denied Bravo’s request.

The Salahis’ ties to the Beltway social scene apparently stem from Taleq Salahi’s stewardship of a failed family-owned vineyard in Virginia and participation in America’s Polo Cup events. Before last week the couple weren’t known in Washington social circles, and records show that Tareq Sahali gave just $1,600 in political contributions over the past nine years.

On her Facebook page, Michaele Sahali expressed her desire to be famous: “Get Ready Kelly Ripa — Don’t you want a friend to tag team Regis!” She even wrote that she wanted to co-host TODAY.

“We are certain we will be exonerated,” Tareq Salahi told Lauer.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints


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