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The Point

Should the Salahis Be Punished?

Dec 2, 2009 – 10:13 AM
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(Dec. 2) - Some people are so upset about Michaele and Tareq Salahi crashing the White House State Dinner that they want the publicity-hungry socialites prosecuted. While there's new evidence that they weren't invited, it's not clear whether they did anything illegal.

The Salahis were not on the guest list for last week's party, according to the White House and Secret Service. And although they've said they believed they were invited, newly released e-mails undercut the couple's claim. News that they were escorted out of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's awards dinner a month ago after showing up uninvited -- and that Michaele Salahi passed herself off as a former Washington Redskins cheerleader -- cast more doubt on their credibility.
president Obama meets Michaele and Tareq Salahi at state dinner
Samantha Appleton, White House / Getty Images

President Obama greets uninvited guests Michaele and Tareq Salahi at the Nov. 24 State Dinner for India's prime minister.


The Salahis' latest escapade has some politicians and pundits demanding prosecution. On "Fox News Sunday," Republican Sen. Jon Kyl and Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh both called for tough action to prevent another such incident. Bayh even compared the Salahis to attempted "shoe bomber" Richard Reid.

"This despicable, desperate, duplicitous couple disgraced the Secret Service and embarrassed the president in his home," GOP strategist Ed Rollins, who worked in the Reagan White House, declared in a CNN commentary. "Make an example out of them."


A New York Daily News editorial, noting that the couple is angling for a spot on a reality TV show, didn't mince words, either. "For trespassing on the national honor in search of a payday, the next photos posted of these vacant, hollow, smug nothings must be mug shots," the paper railed.

The Salahis violated the rules of polite society, but is what they did criminal? That depends on what they told the Secret Service when they arrived at the White House, legal analysts said. If they deliberately lied about being invited, they could be charged with making false statements to federal officials, as well as trespassing on government property, Slate reported.

"There's no question the Secret Service is likely to push very hard for a criminal charge," George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley said in TIME, adding that the agency is "famous for lacking a sense of humor."

More details about the White House security breach might come out later this week. The House Committee on Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing Thursday. The head of the Secret Service and the Salahis have been called to testify. The couple has not yet RSVP'd to that invitation.
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