Real Housewives of D.C.'s Michaele and Tareq Salahi on Surviving Matt Lauer and a Possible Salahis Movie
Just before the first season of The Real Housewives of Washington D.C. premiered, Movieline caught up with Michaele and Tareq Salahi, the alleged White House gate crashers who endured a world of criticism (literally) when the dubious timeline of events leading up to their attendance at a state dinner was revealed. I spoke with the couple about the Housewives brand, media firestorms, and even the prospect of a Salahis movie.
What's it been like waiting for the show to air for all those months? Exciting? Nerve-wracking?
Michaele: It's excitement. It's 18 months later for me. Yeah, March 2009, I was the first wife cast on the show. I can't believe it's here, and I'm like, "I can't wait."
What do you think the show will say about you that will surprise us?
Michaele: I hope that they'll edit me [well]. Have you seen the first episode yet? I hope it's edited to show who I really am. I love people. I do a lot of charity and have for the last 20 years of my life. So I hope they capture and edit me the way I really am.
How does this series stand out within the Housewives brand?
Michaele: You know, The Real Housewives is an incredible franchise, and it's not only an honor to be a woman who's getting highlighted [in] her life, because it helps whatever charity and platform you have in your life that's important to you -- but forget that! It's the city too. We're in the nation's capital, and I think for the first time on Housewives, you'll see political figures and people making decisions. A lot of people think it's just women and talking about your hair or your outfit or silliness like that. But you'll see some fun, and maybe you'll see some of that drama too, but you'll see powerful things, like how a house bill became a law. A delegate talks about it. I don't think any Housewives has shown the political side.
Can you say you're "over" the White House fiasco? Does the gravity of the scandal disorient you even now?
Michaele: Yes, how you just said it, I love it! It's eight months from that, but it's still a fascination in the media, I don't know why. There was another alleged crasher that night, and there was a couple the week before. I think it was the red sari [I wore], I really do. I think it was too bright -- like if I'd gone with a black or gray [it would have escaped notice], but that red was like, "Woo!" I don't know how it became a media storm, but we do have an investigative journalist who has a book coming out. She interviewed everybody including us, her name's Diane Dimond. We were honest about our part. Oh, this is my husband Tareq! Tareq, this is Louis from Movieline.
Tareq: Oh! I will tell you that the book about the Salahis is out. And people are looking at it for a motion picture.
Really? Is that exciting?
Tareq: It is exciting!
I'd see that.
Michaele: Me too, I can't wait to see it.
Now, let's talk about your austere appearance on The Today Show.
Tareq: Round one or round two? Round two was intense.
I've never seen Housewives cast members in such a sober interview. How do you think it went for you?
Michaele: It was great. Matt [Lauer] is very direct in his questions. He's fair. I love Matt Lauer. It was a surreal experience. Imagine you're doing your life, and then the next day you have a media storm, the White House thing, and then you're on Matt Lauer.
Tareq: Matt Lauer was the first journalist to break that there was indeed an affidavit with witnesses saying from the White House that we were invited.
Why did it take someone at Matt Lauer's level for that to be revealed?
Tareq: I think when it broke, this is our view, people thought there was more to the story. On the David Letterman show, they called and said, "We want the Salahis right now. We want to film them." That was the turning point. Everybody wanted us on all their evening shows.
Michaele: My favorite moment was when he went, "I thought they were nice people! I'd have them." When you hear all that stuff in the media, you think we're one type of person. And then when you actually get to meet us and talk with us -- that was the biggest thing when I walked away -- we're nice people. That made us feel so good. A big turning point.
Tareq: According to Dave Letterman and CBS, we're the last Housewives couple they'll ever have on!
Lastly, what is it like to live in Washington now, after all of this?
Michaele: You know, we've been a big part of Washington the past ten to fifteen years. Together as a couple the last decade and you know, promoting both Republican and Democratic parties, we've been a big part of Washington. It's changed because now we have a TV show we're involved in. I mean, there was a media storm over the past few years because of a family pain -- my husband owns a winery, and his mom was trying to push him and the dad out. At first it took a big adjustment when I'd read in The Washington Post them talking about our lives. But people have always been love-or-hate with us. I don't know why.