December 02, 2009 07:21
The man and woman who gained access to a White House state dinner last week without being on the guest list denied Tuesday they were "party crashers."
Tareq Salahi and his wife, Michaele, said in a television interview on NBC's Today Show they have e-mails that show they were invited to the White House event. They would not say who invited them and did not release the documentation.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs contradicted the couple's claim, saying the Salahis were repeatedly told before the event that they did not have an invitation to the dinner.
The couple said they are cooperating with a Secret Service investigation into the incident.
The Washington Post describes the Salahis as socialites and aspiring reality television stars. The couple, who live in the neighboring state of Virginia, passed through several layers of White House security to attend the dinner.
The Secret Service says they went through the same security screening for weapons as other dinner guests, and did not pose a danger. The agency has indicated that a White House checkpoint did not follow proper procedures in letting the couple in.
Sources close to the investigation have said the Salahis exchanged e-mails with a Defense Department official about attending the dinner. That official, Michelle Jones, said Monday she specifically told the Salahis they did not have tickets and that she did not have the authority to add them to the guest list.
The U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee has scheduled a hearing Thursday to investigate how the pair made their way into the high-security event honoring Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The Salahis boasted about attending the dinner on a Facebook Web page, posting photographs of themselves posing with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, U.S. Marines and others.
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