Text: We're sorry. The text content of this page is no longer available.

Video: Uninvited couple sneaks into state dinner

  1. Closed captioning of: Uninvited couple sneaks into state dinner

    >> you through your thanksgiving feast.

    >>> first, let's get started with that stunner in washington . a couple, as we mentioned, got into tuesday night's white house state dinner without an invitation. nbc 's savannah guthrie is at the white house . savannah, this is clearly a very alarming security breach .

    >> reporter: natalie , it is, and this investigation is really just starting, but the secret service says it appears proper procedures were not followed at one of the checkpoints. still, there are huge unanswered questions this morning of how a couple could get past layers of security and get that close to the president.

    >> on behalf of michelle and myself, welcome to the white house .

    >> reporter: state dinners at the white house are lavish, important affairs, part ceremony, part diplomacy. and definitely the hottest ticket in town. this was the obamas' first, and everyone was watching.

    >> general and mrs. powell.

    >> reporter: the guest list read like a who's who of global celebrities. colin powell , steven spielberg , deepak chopra .

    >> mr. and mrs. salahi.

    >> reporter: wait, who?

    >> mr. and mrs. salahi.

    >> reporter: the official guest list had more than 300 names, but the names tareq and michaele salahi were nowhere on it. still, there they were, mixing and mingling and uploading their happy snaps to their facebook page from a memorable evening. with vice president biden, with chief of staff rahm emanuel , with vice president biden again, even with marine guards. so, who are they? if you check youtube, you can find their wedding video. "the washington post " describes them as "polo-playing socialites best known for a bitter family feud over a virginia winery and their possible roles in the forthcoming bravo tv show "the real housewives of washington ." nbc news requested a comment from bravo, but the cable channel , which is owned by the parent company of this network, declined to comment. but how did they get in to the white house ? the secret service says it's looking into a report that individuals not on the guest list were admitted to the event, but insist neither the president nor any of the guests were ever in danger. a spokesman saying, "everyone who enters the white house grounds goes through magnetometers and several other levels of screening. that was the case with the state dinner . no one was under any risk or threat." no one can remember anyone ever crashing a white house state dinner before, and while it certainly raises serious security questions , it also leaves many scratching their heads, wondering just what this couple was up to. a woman describing herself as a publicist for the salahis told "the washington post ," "the salahis were honored to be part of such a prestigious event. they both had a wonderful time." well, invited guests at the dinner say their ids were checked multiple times in some cases. this investigation, as i said, is just starting. it will likely focus on whether this was a secret service failure or perhaps the fault of somebody on the white house social staff, hoda.

    >> very interesting. savannah guthrie , thank you so much. nbc "nightly news" anchor brian williams attended the dinner and captured a unique perspective of the party crashers. here is his account in his own words.

    >> we were in a car at the east gate of the white house . we were sitting in a long line of cars. there was a delay, there was a holdup, and i then realized that there was an suv that had to make a complicated turn to get out of there. their car had been rejected by the secret service . they weren't allowed to go in that entrance. so, they got out of the suv. the reason we noticed this couple was that they had at least one television camera following them, and the woman hopped out of the car, followed by a makeup woman who kind of fluffed up her hair, and then the makeup woman turned her attention to the man. i saw a makeup woman powdering his forehead, an unusual sight on the street corner on a weeknight in washington , d.c. the cameraman back-tracked with them as they made their way up the sidewalk, having been turned down at the east gate. they were going to go into the pedestrian entrance to the party . we got out of our car and got in a giant line of state dinner guests. it was probably 200 of the 330 or so guests. there was a huge backup. people were in good spirits. there were a few polite complaints that it was taking so long. we had to wait for almost 15 minutes before we moved at all. and we finally got up to the security checkpoint. there was just one walk-through magnetometer, airport style. i later saw the couple during cocktails in the east room . i passed right behind them. i said to my wife, "there they are." they looked like perfectly normal guests at a state dinner . they dressed the party . he was in a tux, like all of us. she was in an indian-style, very vivid red dress . they looked like all the other guests. i lost track of them in the crowd, saw them once again later. then when the story broke, i got a text message from my wife saying, "that couple we saw last night on the sidewalk, they crashed the party ."

    >> wow, unique perspective. nbc "nightly news" anchor brian williams on his observations of the couple who crashed the first state dinner hosted by the obamas. it is now eight minutes past 7:00. for more, here's natalie .

    >> hoda, thank you.

    >>> alma rosa is here along with nbc news analyst clint van zandt , former fbi profiler. good morning to both of you.

    >> good morning, natalie .

    >> good morning, natalie .

    >> almirosa, let me start with you because you're friends with tareq and michaele salahi. you were also texting them during the state dinner . at what point did you realize they had crashed the party and what did you say to them?

    >> i realized they crashed the party when they posted the pictures on facebook, because the pictures stop as soon as it's time for them to be seated at the table. you don't see where they're seated or who they're seated next to. you just see them in the cocktail party . and i actually was kind of giving them a high five, like oh, you guys look great. how was the dinner? they couldn't respond because they didn't stay for the dinner.

    >> what did you say to michaele when you texted her then? did you ask her if she crashed the party ?

    >> i was just giving her compliments, because as brian said, she looked the part. she looked stunning. she looked like she belonged in a state dinner , dressed to the nines and in indian traditional garb. and so, i was really just texting her saying you look wonderful. i thought maybe they were taping it for "the housewives of d.c. "

    >> which they're trying out for. do you think, though, that they realized how serious the situation was?

    >> i can tell you with all certainty, natalie , that they did not realize how severe the penalties of, one, trespassing on the white house , and two, lying to federal officials.

    >> all right. clint , let me turn to you, and first, just how alarming is this kind of security breach and the fact that this could happen at a state dinner at the white house ? they're posing alongside the vice president at one point and chief of staff rahm emanuel .

    >> well, i think it's very alarming. as brian williams said, they got in because, you know, if you look like a duck and you walk like a duck , but this wasn't a reception for ducks. they were supposed to be on this guest list, and you know, what we're saying about, well, they didn't realize how serious it is -- you have to realize, if you're breaching what's supposed to be the best security in the world for the house, for the people who live in that house, that is an offense. and for them to just breeze right past that.

    >> right.

    >> i mean, just because she's a former cheerleader doesn't mean she should get a pass by. but natalie , somehow, between the secret service and white house press secretary , they gave them a high five and let them by.

    >> well, it does sound, though, that at one point, from brian 's account, that they were turned away from one area where they were trying to drive in and then perhaps sent around to a different entrance. but as brian reported, the one entrance he went in, there was the one magnetometer and some 200 guests standing in line, waiting for 15 minutes , including a u.s. senator who somewhat complained to the secret service to try to speed it up little bit. do you think there was some pressure to get people through? i mean, it was a rainy night in washington , d.c. what do you think went wrong?

    >> of any agent, the secret service ought to be able to deal with that type of pressure. i agree with you. i think, you know, you've got 200, 300 people, there's a drizzle out and you want to get them in. they're griping, they're complaining. but that's just the time that security could break down, and the bottom line is, if their name is not on the list, they should not have got into that building.

    >> yeah, but natalie --

    >> think of how many bad guys out there are now going to school, learning how to get into the white house .

    >> hold on a second because i want to follow up with clint .

    >> sure.

    >> i want to ask, because obviously, they go through a magnetometer, they're not bringing in anything, but how dangerous a situation is this? because anything in that room could become a weapon potentially.

    >> yeah, anything. you could pick up a knife, you could break a glass. i mean, if you want to get james bond , you could be lined with anthrax and give the president a big hug. so, there is a threat level and we shouldn't minimize that threat level . this was a serious security breach .

    >> you want to add something?

    >> i think it's important -- i worked in the white house and i can tell you, the secret service are not bouncers for a fancy party . they are there to provide security for the president. it's up to the social office to provide the list and to make sure that that list is checked once, twice, three times. secret service -- this is not their issue. this is a social secretary issue.

    >> right. well, clearly, the investigation just beginning on what went wrong, so we're going to be following this for you. thanks so much.

    >> thank you.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments