E-Mails Damage White House Gate Crashers' Claims Tareq and Michaele Salahi pressed a friendly Pentagon aide for four days to score tickets to a White House dinner, e-mails indicate, but by their own admission, they showed up at the White House gates on Nov. 24 without an invitation.
NPR logo E-Mails Damage White House Gate Crashers' Claims

E-Mails Damage White House Gate Crashers' Claims

In this photo released by the White House, President Obama is shown shaking hands with Michaele Salahi at a state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday at the White House. Samantha Appleton/The White House/AP hide caption

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Samantha Appleton/The White House/AP

In this photo released by the White House, President Obama is shown shaking hands with Michaele Salahi at a state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday at the White House.

Samantha Appleton/The White House/AP

As controversy continued to swirl around a Virginia couple accused of crashing a White House dinner, e-mails emerged Wednesday indicating Tareq and Michaele Salahi knew they were not invited.

E-mails released to NBC by the lawyer for the Salahis showed the couple knew they were not invited to President Obama's first state dinner honoring Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, but they decided to go to the White House anyway.

"We ended up going to the gate to check in at 6:30 p.m. to just check in case it got approved since we didn't know, and our name was, indeed, on the list!" Tareq Salahi said in an e-mail to Pentagon official Michele Jones.

The Secret Service has said the Salahis were not on the guest list, but the couple were somehow able to get into the event.

In back-and-forth e-mails between Jones and the Salahis, correspondence showed the couple pressed for an invitation to the state dinner even when Jones e-mailed them there was little chance.

Shortly before the event, Jones left the couple a voice mail saying she'd had no luck getting them approved, but the Salahis said they missed the message because of a dead cell phone battery and went to the White House "to just check."

In the hours leading up to the party, cable network Bravo's Real Housewives of D.C. filmed Michaele Salahi getting ready for the dinner. The socialite has been trying to get a part on the show.

Later, the couple went on NBC's Today program and vowed they would be exonerated. "We're greatly saddened by all the circumstances ... portraying my wife and I as party crashers," said Tareq Salahi. "I can tell you we did not party-crash the White House."

NBC's parent company, NBC Universal, also owns Bravo.

Tuesday, the administration said it will make at least one change to its practices for invitation-only events: The White House social office will go back to making sure that one of its staff members will be present at the gates to help the Secret Service if questions come up, the first lady's communication director, Camille Johnston, said.

Johnston maintained that this has been an existing policy, but the White House and Secret Service have said no such person was present last week as guests arrived for the dinner. Secret Service spokesman Malcolm Wiley said the plan for the dinner did not call for a social office employee to be at the gate, but agents didn't call the office to ask for assistance or clarification.

Meanwhile, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine said he is acquainted with the Salahis. Calling Tareq Salahi a "self-promoter," Kaine said he wasn't surprised by the accusations of high-level gate-crashing.

"If somebody had said to me, 'Hey, some Virginians tried to crash a party ... who do you think it might be?' I think I might have been able to guess it within five seconds," Kaine said, noting that the state has 7.5 million residents.

On Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that a polo event and nonprofit foundation tied to the couple was in financial disarray. Tareq Salahi listed himself as "United States Polo team captain — India vs. USA, World Cup 2010" in his e-mails to Jones.

The paper said the annual polo cup event, created in 2006, resulted in "many" vendors saying that they hadn't been paid, leading to lawsuits and countersuits. The nonprofit Journey for the Cure foundation — established in 2004 — didn't register with Virginia to raise funds until last month, the newspaper also reported.

The furor surrounding the incident has resulted in one high-profile invitation: The Salahis are scheduled to appear before a congressional panel Thursday for a hearing on the White House security breach.

From NPR and wire service reports