Socialite Reality-TV Wannabes Who Crashed White House Met President Obama

Michaele and Tareq Salahi met president on a receiving line, White House says.

ByABC News via logo
November 26, 2009, 8:35 AM

Nov. 27, 2009 — -- The Washington-area socialites who sneaked into a White House state dinner are shown meeting President Obama at the event in a photo released by the White House.

The disclosure came as Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan said "the Secret Service is deeply concerned and embarrassed" by his agency's "failing" in allowing the Michaele and Tareq Salahi access to the event. Among other duties, the Secret Service is charged with protecting the president.

The photo released by the White House this evening showed President Obama shaking Michaele Salahi's hand with Tareq Salahi looking on.

"The couple who attended the event without an invitation did meet the president in the receiving line," a White House official said.

The guest of honor, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, can be seen in the background, apprarently on the same receiving line. It is standard protocol at a state dinner for the president to introduce guests in the receiving line to the visiting head of state.

Sullivan said his agency's probe into the matter continues.

"The preliminary findings of our internal investigation have determined established protocols were not followed at an initial checkpoint, [specifically, the failure to verify] that two individuals were on the guest list," he said. "As our investigation continues, appropriate measures have been taken to ensure this is not repeated."

Despite the incident, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro suggested the president has confidence that the Secret Service is protecting him effectively.

"The men and women of the Secret Service put their lives on the line every day to protect us," Shapiro said. "They are heroes and they have the full confidence of the president of United States.

"The White House asked the United States Secret Service to do a full review and they are doing that," Shapiro added. "The United States Secret Service said they made a mistake and they are taking action to identify exactly what happened and they will take the appropriate measures pending the results of their investigation."

Friends of the Salahis said the couple loves attention and said that they were invited to the White House gala event in honor of India.

"They love to be in the limelight," Casey Margenau said of Michaele and Tareq Salahi in an interview with "Good Morning America" today. "They love to be at a party, they like to be in front of everything and it would not have surprised me for them to have been invited."

Margenau threw the party at which the couple met and he was part of their wedding party. He said it didn't make much of a difference whether they were invited.

"They're in the limelight all the time … this is part of what they do, they enjoy it," he said. "And why not? Look how many people are talking about them right now. If you look on their Facebook page, most of it's positive … ."

Asked about speculation that the couple were in financial trouble, and sneaked into the dinner in a bid for a reality show they needed to shore up their finances, Margenau said he didn't have "any idea" where they were financially.

At one point, he said, he had contemplated purchasing a winery owned by the couple. The winery had been in trouble and the numbers didn't appear to be feasible, he said.