The Salahis: Masters of Deniable Publicity

There was a seismic shock that circulated the White House press corps this morning after ABC reported that former party crashers Tareq and Michaele Salahi were stopped by a Secret Service officer for running a red light and trying to turn into a blocked-off entrance last night outside the executive mansion, which was hosting its first state dinner since The Incident.

They couldn’t have, we thought—could they?

They didn't, technically. But they did come mighty close. Suspiciously close. Apparently the attention-seeking couple was headed to a soiree with friends at the nearby Kellari Taverna, a Mediterranean/seafood joint about two blocks north of the White House. A manager at the restaurant told the AP that after the limo arrived, there was lots of filming going on, apparently in a reality-TV style.

It all sounds reasonable, except for all the questions the story brings up. For one, who takes a limo out for a regular night out to eat with some friends? And second, why a restaurant just a stone's throw from an event that last time got you in some pretty hot water? Really, if the fallout from the last state dinner really did "devastate" the Salahis, as they claimed, wouldn't they mark last night, of all nights, on the calendar to stay home and rent a movie? And lastly, and this is deeper in the weeds, but coming from Virginia, there are about half a dozen ways to get to the restaurant (the Key Bridge, Rock Creek Parkway, the 14th Street Bridge, to name several) that wouldn't have taken them by the White House—unless, of course, the limo driver was deliberately trying, or had been directed, to get close to the exclusive event.

The answer here, folks, seems to be pretty clear. They wanted the publicity but didn't want to pay for it. Some might even say they're addicted to it. Why? Well, with plans to write a "tell-all book" (about what, who knows?) and hit the road next month to promote a new reality show, last night probably seemed like an excellent opportunity to pick up some pretty nice ink. Pick a strategic night, drive out of your way to pass the White House and make sure someone recognizes you (which is not to say the driver purposely tried to turn into a blocked-off entrance, but it is possible). Then, when your name ends up on TV and in news items the next day, just claim you were innocently trying to enjoy a private evening on the town with friends.

Friends and TV cameras, that is.