Transcript courtesy Federal News Service
NBC "Today Show" interview
MR. LAUER: Now to the couple accused of crashing the Obamas' first White House state dinner. We're going to talk to them extensively in our next half-hour, but right now Michaele and Tareq Salahi are with us.
Good morning to both of you.
MS. SALAHI: Good morning, Matt.
MR. SALAHI: Good morning, Matt.
MR. LAUER: As I mentioned, we'll talk a lot in our next half- hour. But just, if you can for a moment here in this half-hour, give me a sense of what your lives have been like over the last four or five days.
MR. SALAHI: Well, I can tell you this has been the most devastating thing that's ever happened to us. We're greatly saddened by all the circumstances that have, you know, been involved in portraying my wife and I as party-crashers. And I can tell you, we did not party-crash the White House.
MR. LAUER: I know you have spent an awful lot of time talking to officials. As a matter of fact, I know you spent a great deal of your day yesterday, on Monday, speaking with the Secret Service. And we spoke in the middle of the day, and you led me to believe that this story is about to take a dramatic and unexpected turn and people will change their opinions of this story. Can you shed some light on that?
MR. SALAHI: Well, that's exactly right, Matt. We are cooperating extensively with the U.S. Secret Service on their internal review and their investigation that they're doing internally. We're proud to be working with them. And we have great respect for the U.S. Secret Service. We have great respect for the presidency and President Obama. And we're going to continue to cooperate, and the truth will soon come out.
MR. LAUER: All right, as I said, we're going to speak extensively in our next half-hour. Michaele and Tareq Salahi, thank you very much.
MS. SALAHI: Thank you, Matt.
MR. SALAHI: Thank you, Matt.
MR. LAUER: Michaele and Tareq Salahi are now with us exclusively.
Mr. and Mrs. Salahi, thank you for joining us.
MS. SALAHI: Good morning, Matt.
MR. SALAHI: Good morning, Matt. Thank you for having us.
MR. LAUER: It's my pleasure.
Let me start with a question. Based on some of the things that have been reported over the last 48 or 72 hours, I feel the need to say this and ask this. Are you appearing here today in any way because of any financial deal that you have made with this network? Are we paying you for this appearance in any way?
MS. SALAHI: No, you're not.
MR. SALAHI: No, absolutely not.
MR. LAUER: All right, let me go, then, to --
MS. SALAHI: And at no time, Matt, have we ever even talked about doing that with anyone.
MR. LAUER: Let me go to Thursday morning, okay. So the state dinner is over. You've gone there. You've had your photos taken. You've shaken hands with the president. And now you wake up on Thursday morning to the headlines that say, "White House Party- Crashers." What was your reaction when you saw the headlines?
MS. SALAHI: Devastated.
MR. SALAHI: Very saddened to see that.
MR. LAUER: Why? Why devastated?
MS. SALAHI: Shocked, devastated. We knew the facts, which was time, you know, our side of the story, and everything will be heard. And right now it's just been really unbearable to go through.
MR. LAUER: When you see, in addition to the headlines, some of the things that have been reported about the two of you -- and I'll be blunt about it -- have not been at all positive -- in fact, they've been extremely negative -- do you feel as if you've been mischaracterized in the media?
MR. SALAHI: No question. I mean, you know, unfortunately we've been mischaracterized through the media and other paparazzi forums. And, you know, our homes have been invaded. It's been just devastating what's happened to Michaele and I and our friends, colleagues, our business partners.
MS. SALAHI: Our lives have been destroyed.
MR. SALAHI: Our lives have really been destroyed.
MS. SALAHI: Everything we worked for, Matt; for me, 44 years just destroyed.
MR. LAUER: There are some hurdles you still have to clear. And you were clear with me on the phone about that that there are some meetings you still have to have before you can talk in explicit detail about every aspect of this story. But at the center of everything is a simple question, and the question is, were you or were you not invited to attend that state dinner? How do you answer that?
MS. SALAHI: Well, we were invited, not crashers. And there isn't anyone that would have the audacity or the poor behavior to do that. The White House is the most -- it is the house, and no one would do that --
MR. LAUER: Who invited you?
MS. SALAHI: -- and certainly not us.
MR. SALAHI: Well --
MS. SALAHI: That's --
MR. SALAHI: Well, you know, Matt, one of the things that we're doing is we're working closely with the Secret Service in their internal investigation.
MS. SALAHI: Respect everything they do.
MR. SALAHI: We're respecting their time line and we're working on --
MS. SALAHI: What they need to do.
MR. SALAHI: -- their time line. We want to get through that process. We've been very candid with them. We've turned over documentation to them. And we'll continue to work with the U.S. Secret Service completely all the way through this process.
MR. LAUER: You've heard the statement that was issued by Michele Jones, who's a senior Pentagon official, who said, quote, "I did not state at any time or imply that I had tickets for any portion of the evening's events.
I specifically stated they did not have tickets; in fact, that I did not have the authority to authorize attendance, admittance, access to any part of the evening's activities. Even though I informed them of this, they still decided to come." I've heard reports she even left a voice mail on your machine saying pretty much the same thing.
Do you disagree with what Michele Jones says in that statement?
MR. SALAHI: Well, what we're going to do, we're going to definitely work with the Secret Service and, you know, and our -- and, you know, between Michaele and I on this to really shed light on this. And we're going to be coming up to New York, sitting on your couch; we're going to show you documentation from e-mails that, you know, you'll get a chance to see.
MR. LAUER: This documentation, Tareq -- I want to see if I can be a little more specific on this. I know you've got these e-mails. Are these e-mails that are unequivocal, in your mind, or are they open to interpretation? In other words, if anyone looks at these, are they going to say, "Wow, yes, they had clearance to attend," or might that be your point of view reading them, and other people might look and say, "No, this is a game of semantics here"?
MR. SALAHI: No, in our view it's clear to us. And based on the time line, I think the American public is actually going to be extremely surprised with all the details that went from beginning to end into what was supposed to be a lovely, beautiful evening.
MS. SALAHI: Lifetime memory.
MR. SALAHI: You know, a lifetime memory. So, you know, we're prepared to be coming up there hopefully very soon.
MR. LAUER: Just a couple more. Let me ask you about this report that's come up this morning that on September 26th the two of you attended another event, the Congressional Black Caucus dinner. Reports are you were uninvited to that and were escorted out. We have a photograph of you that was taken alongside New York Congressman Charlie Rangel. What was the reason for you attending that? Were you invited?
MR. SALAHI: Yes, we were invited. This is the first time I've ever heard, you know, another false accusation against my wife and I, saying that we weren't invited there. We were invited there by the Gardner Law Group. We were a guest of theirs, proud guest of theirs. And, no, were we escorted out? Of course not. That's, you know, another gossip rumor, just unfortunate, like how this story got started through a gossip column.
MR. LAUER: Based on your meetings yesterday --
MS. SALAHI: It's very painful.
MR. LAUER: -- with the Secret Service, do you feel as if you will be prosecuted, or do you think you will be completely exonerated in this situation?
MR. SALAHI: I am certain we're going to be completely exonerated.
MR. LAUER: And when do you think you'll be able to come up here and share details of the rest of this story?
MS. SALAHI: We'll just hope and wait.
MR. SALAHI: Michaele and I hope to do that in the very near term; you know, within -- we hope within the next several days.
MR. LAUER: We look forward to having you here.
MS. SALAHI: Whatever time they need. Thank you, Matt.
MR. SALAHI: We're definitely going to be working on the Secret Service's timetable on that. But we are looking forward to coming to see you, Matt.
MR. LAUER: All right, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, thank you very much for joining us this morning. I appreciate it.
MS. SALAHI: Thank you, Matt.
MR. SALAHI: Thank you, Matt.