Tareq and Michaele Salahi with Vice President Joe Biden"There isn't anyone that would have the audacity or the poor behavior to do that....no one would do that, and certainly not us," said Michaele Salahi of the accusation that she and her husband, Tareq, had crashed the Obamas' state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The denials, made on this morning's Today show during an interview with Matt Lauer, evoked similar protestations of innocence by Richard Heene, father of the so-called Balloon Boy. "That's horrible," replied Heene, in response to a question about whether the boy's mid-October "disappearance" had been staged as a publicity stunt. The indignation in his voice as he clutched his son Falcon was palpable. As if to say, You should be ashamed for asking such a question! How could you even think something like that after all we've been through today? Indeed. How could we?
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice....
So forgive me if the Salahis who—much as it pains me to say it—are innocent until proven guilty are sounding suspiciously like their fellow reality television aspirant Richard Heene. Prior to this blow-up, the Salahis had been working with Bravo, filming for the forthcoming Real Housewives of Washington, D.C. For their part, the Heenes had been featured in an episode of the show Wife Swap and were continually looking for ways to thrust themselves into the spotlight.
What was so galling about the Balloon Boy case and what is now the same apparent trajectory in the case of the accused White House gatecrashers is that the denials are so strident. Like Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich before them, these individuals excel at playing on the general public's good nature as they look into the cameras and flatly deny any wrongdoing and make us feel guilty for questioning their actions.
"Everything we worked for, Matt," stated a stone-faced Michaele, "for me 44 years....just destroyed." On the contrary, getting into the White House despite the fact that they were not, according to President Obama's social secretary, on the invitation list, actually appears to be the pièce de résistance for Mrs. Salahi, who allegedly (and rather dubiously) promoted herself on various occasions as a Washington Redskins cheerleader and a former Miss USA. As a high-flying couple, the Salahis have left an exhaust trail of unpaid bills, lawsuits and acrimony in their wake. Pity anyone unlucky enough to have mistaken their smiling faces for the visages of an honest couple. And now, the White House can be added to that long list.
Fortunately, the only real harm done in the case of the Salahis' party-crashing is a pock mark on the good name of the Secret Service. Apart from that embarassment, no great damage was done. And the incident will surely result in tougher security standards at White House functions from here on in, which is not necessarily a bad thing, particularly when not one, but two heads of state are in attendance.
As for the Salahis, perhaps they should have heeded the words of Barack Obama during a question and answer session earlier this year and not been so brazen as to post the state dinner pics on Facebook:
“I want everybody here to be careful about what you post on Facebook," he said. "Because in the YouTubeage whatever you do, it will be pulled up again later somewhere in your life. That’s number one."
"This was supposed to be a lifetime memory," she complained to Lauer during their interview today. Regardless of how this turns out (and there is no doubt in my mind that the Salahis will spin gold from the entire incident), it will certainly be a lifetime memory for her regardless. Sadly, a lifetime memory for the rest of us, too.