- The Washington Times - Monday, November 30, 2009

The Virginia couple who crashed the White House state dinner Tuesday should face the heaviest criminal charges in order to deter other would-be crashers, two lawmakers said Sunday.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, said Tareq and Michaele Salahi, who are vying for a spot on a reality TV show to be filmed in Washington, need to be made an example of to prevent this from happening again.

“I think you have to have a strong deterrent against this kind of thing. And therefore, if it’s a federal crime to lie to a federal agent, and these people didn’t tell the truth about their invitation, then they should be in some way brought to justice here, again, as an example to others not to do it,” Mr. Kyl said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The Salahis may have had to lie to Secret Service agents to gain entrance Tuesday to President Obama’s first state dinner, for Indian Prime Minister Manhoman Singh, though Secret Service officials admitted that the couple’s identities were never checked against the guest list.

Sen. Evan Bayh, Indiana Democrat, compared the couple’s stunt to “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, the Islamic terrorist whose attempt to explode a plane shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks changed how all passengers were screened at airports.

“I mean, of course, people have been laughing about it because it is so incredulous. But it’s not a laughing matter that people could get that close to the president and the vice president who aren’t supposed to be there,” Mr. Bayh said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The couple is now trying to sell interviews to television networks for hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Associated Press reported, citing a television executive speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The Salahis have told network officials to “get their bids in” and are looking to be paid an amount in the mid-six figures range, the executive said.

The two canceled a planned interview Monday with CNN’s Larry King. Mrs. Salahi is auditioning for the Bravo network’s reality show “Real Housewives of Washington, D.C.”

The event has prompted other lawmakers to call for a review of the U.S. Secret Services security practices and focused attention on how the two eventually got to meet the president and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan has apologized for the breach.

• Tom LoBianco can be reached at tlobianco@washingtontimes.com.

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