TODAY   |  May 25, 2010

Salahis apologize to Obamas for ‘misunderstandings’

Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the controversial couple accused of crashing a White House state dinner, tell TODAY’s Matt Lauer that their appearances at or near the White House over the past six months have been a series of misunderstandings that have created a media frenzy that they are sorry for.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

MATT LAUER, co-host: But let us begin this half-hour with Tareq and Michaele Salahi , the controversial couple accused of crashing the White House state dinner last fall. Last week during another state dinner , the Secret Service stopped the Salahis limo driver for running a red light after he tried to turn into a restricted park very close to the White House . We'll have an exclusive interview with the couple in a moment, but first an update. It was the Obamas ' second state dinner for the president and first lady of Mexico .

President BARACK OBAMA: Cheers. Salut.

LAUER: Accused party crashers Tareq and Michaele Salahi told NBC News it was just "an unbelievable coincidence" that they were so close to the White House . They were accompanied by a camera crew from " Inside Edition " and told authorities they were on their way to a nearby restaurant for a dinner party with friends.

Offscreen Voice: Mr. and Mrs. Salahi.

LAUER: In November, the Salahis grabbed worldwide attention when they made it through several Secret Service checkpoints, gaining entrance to a state dinner for the prime minister of India , even meeting President Obama and Vice President Biden . Appearing here on TODAY, they denied crashing that dinner.

Ms. Michaele SALAHI: Well, we were invited, not crashers, and there isn't anyone that would have the audacity or the poor behavior to do that.

LAUER: The White House said they were not invited and the incident led to the dismissal of prominent social secretary Desiree Rogers . Subpoenaed to testify before Congress , the Salahis took the fifth.

Mr. TAREQ SALAHI: On the advice of counsel, I respectfully assert my rights.

Unidentified Man: Let me ask you a question, were you there?

Mr. SALAHI: On the advice of counsel...

Man: Are you here today, Mr. Salahi ? Are you here right now?

LAUER: And in a recent interview, the Salahis said they deserve an apology.

Mr. SALAHI: It would be nice if somebody apologized to us or if somebody would...

Ms. SALAHI: I would just like to move forward.

Mr. SALAHI: ...just call it quits.

LAUER: The publicity-seeking couple could still face charges for crashing the state dinner last year, and while NBC 's sister cable network Bravo has not officially announced that the Salahis are part of the cast, it's been widely reported that they will be part of the popular franchise "The Real Housewives of D.C. " Tareq and Michaele Salahi , good morning. Good to see you two.

Ms. SALAHI: Good morning.

Mr. SALAHI: Good morning.

LAUER: Welcome back.

Ms. SALAHI: Good morning, Matt.

LAUER: Let's just start with last week, OK.


LAUER: On the night of the second Obama administration state dinner , you're in a limo. That limo runs a red light , tries to make an illegal turn onto The Ellipse or into The Ellipse , which is directly adjacent to the White House , basically. You're stopped by Secret Service uniformed officers and detained for a little while . And in the limo with you is a camera crew . Why?

Mr. SALAHI: Yeah, well, first, you know, that night the limo driver actually never pulled into a restricted area. You know, we're in the back, so obviously we weren't giving directions or anything to the limo driver, but you know, we were driving down Constitution Avenue to turn up to 17th and I to go to Kellari and then onward to the Buddha Bar .

LAUER: A friend's dinner party .

Mr. SALAHI: Yeah.

Ms. SALAHI: Yes.

Mr. SALAHI: We had a dinner party planned.

LAUER: Why did you have a camera crew with you to go to a friend's dinner party ?

Ms. SALAHI: We were doing a lifestyle report.

Mr. SALAHI: That's right .

Ms. SALAHI: And we've done this over the last decade quite a bit.

Mr. SALAHI: Well, and more recently, you know, for a lot of activities that are -- that are surrounding us that we're involved in.

LAUER: Let me throw the speculation at you, OK?

Ms. SALAHI: Right.

LAUER: Night of the second state dinner . We all know what happened on the night of the first state dinner . And the cynics out there are saying here come the Salahis . They want to get close to the White House again with a camera crew . They want that photo op standing in front of the gate of the White House on the night of the second state dinner . You say?



Mr. SALAHI: Not true. We had the -- you know, the camera crew in there and then we were going to the dinner party . That was planned for weeks.

Ms. SALAHI: Right. To gather all our friends together and get a, you know, a night with them.

Mr. SALAHI: Even our attorneys were actually at the dinner party and even came down when we got stopped.

Ms. SALAHI: Yeah.

LAUER: So pure coincidence. Not an attempt at further publicity based on the date and the timing?

Ms. SALAHI: No. Right. And the actual -- in the front seat with the limo driver was the Virginia Tourism Corporation , one of the representatives. And she was in the front seat with that driver.

LAUER: All right. Let's go back to the first state dinner . When you were on this program just a couple of days , at the time of the white hot media spotlight on you guys and there was a lot you told me you couldn't tell me.

Ms. SALAHI: Right.

LAUER: You couldn't speak about at that time. So let me ask you now. You've told me there's a lot of evidence you have that will completely exonerate you in terms of trying to crash that dinner. What is the most significant piece of evidence you can share with me right now that clears you in that case?

Mr. SALAHI: Well, we have -- certainly we have witnesses that...

Ms. SALAHI: Third-party witnesses.

Mr. SALAHI: That listened to conservations...

Ms. SALAHI: right.

Mr. SALAHI: ...that have been, you know, recorded -- affidavits and declarations that have been done. That...

LAUER: Do those witnesses say, yes, you were invited to that party?

Ms. SALAHI: Yes, without a doubt.

LAUER: And those are credible witnesses...

Ms. SALAHI: Those are credible...

LAUER: ...from within the White House or the administration or someone else with an official title?

Ms. SALAHI: Yes.

Mr. SALAHI: That's right . That's right .

Ms. SALAHI: An official title.

Mr. SALAHI: It was a phone call that we had, a conference call . And there were witnesses to that call.

LAUER: Can I say the name of the person on that conference call ? It was Michelle Jones , correct?

Ms. SALAHI: Correct.

Mr. SALAHI: That's right .

LAUER: Your contact within the Pentagon and contact within the Obama administration. And according to a document you've shown us, we don't have right in front of us, after this all happened, after the media glare, after the accusations of crashing the party, you had a conversation with her where she said, `This is all just a big misunderstanding.'

Ms. SALAHI: Right.

Mr. SALAHI: Absolutely right.

Ms. SALAHI: It's been a series of misunderstandings over six months and recently we saw the vice president, Vice President Biden and President Obama speak at the correspondents' dinner and joked about us.

Mr. SALAHI: Yeah.

Ms. SALAHI: And that's why we decided to come today. We thought if they can joke about us, maybe it's time just everyone move forward.

LAUER: The conversation that you had printed out on that affidavit, I believe it was an affidavit.

Ms. SALAHI: Yes.

Mr. SALAHI: Yes.

LAUER: Have you shown that to the Secret Service and law enforcement and have they seemed to be convinced by it?

Ms. SALAHI: Yes.

Mr. SALAHI: Yeah, yeah.

Ms. SALAHI: They've seen it.

Mr. SALAHI: Yeah, they've seen it.

Ms. SALAHI: They, in fact, stated...

Mr. SALAHI: Yeah, they're the first ones to say...

Ms. SALAHI: ...could this be a misunderstanding.

Mr. SALAHI: ...this appears to be a misunderstanding.

LAUER: Michaele , I want to ask you about another thing I wanted to ask you the first time. There were reports that on the day of the first state dinner , you were in a salon getting ready.

Ms. SALAHI: Right.

LAUER: And you were asked about this. You were talking to people, we're going to the White House tonight. And somebody asked you to see your invitation and you said it's in the car. In truth there was no invitation. You never in possession of...

Ms. SALAHI: No. I...

LAUER: So why did you say that?

Ms. SALAHI: You know, I was asked to say that to go along with something. And the stylist I had just met five minutes prior and I asked her, first of all, someone I just meet...

LAUER: Asked by who to say that?

Ms. SALAHI: That's, you know, we'll have to wait and see. I can't share that.

LAUER: But who told you to share something that wasn't true. I mean, that would be important.

Mr. SALAHI: Well, that -- no, that's a good point.

Ms. SALAHI: That is a very good point.

Mr. SALAHI: That's a very good point. So let's talk about that for a second. Because I was witness to that and that's something that probably took about 10 or 12 different shots to take that day.

LAUER: So this wasn't -- there were cameras there, we want to mention.

Ms. SALAHI: Right.

LAUER: The cameras weren't just recording spontaneous conversations?

Ms. SALAHI: It was just a...

LAUER: It was scripted?

Mr. SALAHI: It's...

Ms. SALAHI: I asked her, why are you asking me? I would never even share...

LAUER: You asked who?

Ms. SALAHI: The hairstylist.

LAUER: Uh-huh .

Ms. SALAHI: And she said, `I'm sorry, Michaele , I'm being told to ask you this.'

Mr. SALAHI: That's right .

LAUER: By...

Ms. SALAHI: Yeah.

Mr. SALAHI: By producers.

Ms. SALAHI: Producers.

LAUER: OK. So you're leaving open more questions that you're answering on this, you realize that.

Mr. SALAHI: Well...

Ms. SALAHI: Well, no, it was producers.


Ms. SALAHI: They had told us.

LAUER: All right.

Mr. SALAHI: And unfortunately, we both signed NDAs with that organization.

LAUER: Non-disclosure agreements.

Mr. SALAHI: Non-disclosures.

Ms. SALAHI: Right.

Mr. SALAHI: And we're not allowed to talk about a lot of things that, you know, that happened related to that.

LAUER: You have not been completely cleared. It's still a possibility that charges could be filed. Do you know why you've been left twisting in the wind a little bit?

Ms. SALAHI: I'm not certain, but recently, like I said, I saw them both making jokes about us and I feel in my heart if someone's making a joke about you, the president and vice president, they wouldn't want to hurt you.

LAUER: You said on this piece of tape that we ran earlier that you would like an apology or at least, you know, end of the road type thing. It's probably not -- you're probably not going to get an apology from the White House here.

Mr. SALAHI: Well...

Ms. SALAHI: You wanted to clarify.

LAUER: You both realize that.

Mr. SALAHI: Well, let me clarify that. I at no time did I ask for an apology from the White House and I'm still not. When that was done and that was done months ago...

Ms. SALAHI: Five months ago.

Mr. SALAHI: ...I was very troubled with the way the media was treating us, the way the media was coming to our home, going through our cars, looking at our registration.

Ms. SALAHI: The media .

Mr. SALAHI: Really invading, you know, our privacy and our home. You know, other networks and some of those people...

Ms. SALAHI: And they prejudged.

Mr. SALAHI: And being prejudged by members of Congress .

Ms. SALAHI: Yeah, we were being called con artists.

Mr. SALAHI: Before the hearing even got started, gotten started.

Ms. SALAHI: Yeah, so we hadn't even gone to it.

Mr. SALAHI: We were being told, oh, you're guilty before we can go there.

Ms. SALAHI: Right.

Mr. SALAHI: That's really one of the main reasons we had to take the fifth. So yeah, you know, I wanted, you know, some sort of apology by the media the way they treated us or by members of Congress calling us things before we even had a chance to even go to Congress .

Ms. SALAHI: And that video was not ever supposed to be released.

Mr. SALAHI: Yeah.

LAUER: All right.

Mr. SALAHI: Honestly, Matt.

Ms. SALAHI: Yeah. That was...

Mr. SALAHI: If anything, you know, Michaele and I, you know, we're sorry to the president and first lady for this -- really, the situation that's happened.

Ms. SALAHI: The storm of media .

Mr. SALAHI: The storm of media .

LAUER: Short of asking for an apology from them, you're actually sorry for what this created?

Ms. SALAHI: That they're having to...

Mr. SALAHI: Oh, we're sorry for what this created to the president and the first lady.

Ms. SALAHI: For everyone.

Mr. SALAHI: Absolutely.

Ms. SALAHI: For everyone, especially the president and first lady.

LAUER: Final point, although our sister network Bravo has not confirmed it, there are -- there -- there's a lot of speculation and reports that you both will be a part of a new franchise of " The Real " -- there's this " Real Housewives " franchise that they run and they're doing one, " Real Housewives of D.C. " and that you are a part of that cast. What can you tell me about that?

Ms. SALAHI: Oh, my gosh. I love the " Housewives " series. And if they're doing a show, I'll watch.

LAUER: You'll watch or be a part of it?

Ms. SALAHI: We have to wait and see what happens.

LAUER: Is this at all related to this kind of area that we seem to be hedging over in terms of who told you to say what?

Mr. SALAHI: I mean, we're just -- we're simply just prohibited. We're not allowed to talk anything about a series or anything about the...

Ms. SALAHI: And we're happy to be here just to talk about...

Mr. SALAHI: Yeah.

Ms. SALAHI: know, that we just want to move forward.

Mr. SALAHI: We've been -- we've been strongly told...

Ms. SALAHI: By a lot of people not to talk about a lot of different things.

Ms. SALAHI: Yeah.

LAUER: OK. Which I think sets us up for round three.


LAUER: All right.

Mr. SALAHI: Yeah.


LAUER: We will see you soon. Thank you both for stopping by.