- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 1, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) — The man who got into a White House dinner without an invitation denied Tuesday that he and his wife were gatecrashers.

Appearing on a nationally broadcast morning news show with his wife, Michaele, Tareq Salahi said the furor surrounding their attendance at the state dinner for the visiting Indian prime minister has been a “most devastating” experience.

Salahi said in the interview Tuesday on NBC’s “Today” show that there was more to the story — an explanation that would exonerate the couple from allegations of misconduct in the breach of White House security. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, appearing on the same program, stood by the administration’s position that the Salahis were gatecrashers.

“This wasn’t a misunderstanding,” Gibbs said. “You don’t show up at the White House as a misunderstanding.”

For his part, Salahi said he and his wife were cooperating with the Secret Service in its investigation of the incident a week ago. And he said they both have “great respect” for President Barack Obama.

“We’re greatly saddened by all the circumstances … portraying my wife and I as party crashers. I can tell you we did not party-crash the White House.”

The White House gate caper captivated a capital frequently as as well known for its elegant social life and celebrity eruptions as the day-to-day business of government and state.

Earlier Tuesday, Gibbs said that Obama and his wife, Michelle, were both angered by the incursion.

Interviewed on MSNBC, Gibbs said “it’s safe to say he was angry. Michelle was angry.”

Gibbs noted that the Secret Service is investigating what went wrong and said the White House was also re-examining its procedures. He told the network, “I think the president really had the same reaction the Secret Service had, and that was great concern for how something like this happened.”

Michaele Salahi described the couple as “shocked and devastated” when they saw accounts of the incident the following morning.

Asked if they had been mischaracterized in the media, Tareq Salahi said, “No question … It’s been devastating what’s happened to Michaele and I … Our lives have really been destroyed.”

“Everything we’ve worked for,” Michaele Talahi told interviewer Matt Lauer.

“We were invited, not crashers, and there isn’t anyone who would have the audicity or the poor behavior to do that,” she said. “No one would do that, and certainly not us.”

Tareq Salahi said that the couple has been “very candid” with the Secret Service and said “we have turned over documentation to them.”

“We’re going to definitely work with the Secret Service between Micahele and I to really shed light on this,” Tareq Salahi said. He indicated the couple had e-mails that would reinforce their position that they did not go uninvited to the dinner.

The couple also said they had not discussed accepting money from any party or organization, including NBC, for telling their story.

“I am certain we will be completely exonerated,” he said.

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