Virginia Couple Crashed White House Dinner
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
We can only imagine the decibel level within the Secret Service right now, after an uninvited couple from Virginia managed to crash this week's state dinner at the White House. Tareq and Michaele Salahi were announced at the White House as they swept by reporters.
(Soundbite of announcement)
Unidentified Man: Mr. and Ms. Salahi.
BLOCK: They then paused for photographers before continuing into the soire. Only problem, they weren't on the guest list. Now, the Secret Service admits procedures weren't followed and they're investigating how the Salahis achieved this social and security breach. The Salahis have since posted photos from the dinner on their Facebook page. They're posing with the likes of Vice President Joe Biden and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.
The Salahis have been described as polo-playing socialites with aspiration for - you guessed it - reality TV. Joining us on the line is someone who is probably quite happy she wasn't at the White House, at least not in her old job. Amy Zantzinger was the social secretary for President George W. Bush. Amy, thanks for joining us.
Ms. AMY ZANTZINGER (Former Social Secretary): Thank you.
BLOCK: And if you look at the pictures that are all over the Web right now, you see this couple there dressed the part. She's wearing this lovely, sort of Indian-inspired dress, and he's wearing a tux. Shouldn't get you in the door, though, right?
Ms. ZANTZINGER: Yes, this is really quite amazing that this happened. It's - I don't think I've - I don't think in the history of the White House, needless to say, has this happened, to have a party crasher at a state dinner or any other event at the White House.
BLOCK: And can you imagine, can you transport yourself to either the social secretary's office or the Secret Service right now, and what those conversations would be like?
Ms. ZANTZINGER: Well, the Secret Service works tirelessly to avoid these occurrences. And this is a highly unusual set of circumstances. And I'm sure they are revisiting everything that happened that night to figure out how it happened. I know that the gates opened late that night. Guests that come to a state dinner are invited to drive their cars under the east portico. And due to the gates opening late, there was quite a bit of congestion. I think a lot of the guests decided to get out of their cars and just walk through. So we can most likely assume they were one of the many walk-in guests that came through the gates.
BLOCK: Well, how do you figure the Salahis managed to pull this off?
Ms. ZANTZINGER: I don't know. I'm baffled. I mean, in an environment where security is so important, it is, to me, absolutely despicable that they would compromise White House security for their own social-climbing goals, to be perfectly frank. It's truly amazing.
BLOCK: And the Secret Service has made the point that they went through magnetometers. There were no physical security threats to the president or the first family or anybody at the dinner. But at the same time, this just looks awful.
Ms. ZANTZINGER: Well, it's completely inappropriate. I mean, this administration, like every administration, is working on really important issues. And they should not be dealing with these horrible people focused solely on their self-promotion. And that's exactly what it is - it's their self-promotion. And it's an embarrassment to everybody.
BLOCK: Have you been talking with your former White House colleagues about this story, Amy?
Ms. ZANTZINGER: No, I really haven't. It's a Thanksgiving weekend, and we're all with our families. I do on occasion talk to Desiree; I haven't spoken to her recently.
BLOCK: Desiree is Desiree Rogers?
Ms. ZANTZINGER: Correct, the current White House social secretary.
BLOCK: Yeah. You know, I'm trying to imagine the mentality of somebody who would assume they could pull this off. It's really pretty, pretty�
Ms. ZANTZINGER: Pretty ballsy.
BLOCK: �incredible to think about. Well, ballsy, yeah - that's the word, I guess.
Ms. ZANTZINGER: Yes, dressing the part, showing up thinking they could do it. And then it's even more frightening that they actually were able to do it.
BLOCK: Well, Amy Zantzinger, thanks for taking time off on Thanksgiving to talk with us. Appreciate it.
Ms. ZANTZINGER: Thank you so much. Happy Thanksgiving.
BLOCK: Amy Zantzinger was social secretary for President George W. Bush.