WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The reality TV show hopefuls who got into a White House state dinner without an invitation gave their first national TV interview on Tuesday and denied they gate-crashed the high-security gala.
"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 house' and no one would do that, certainly not us," said Michaele Salahi, who appeared with her husband Tareq on NBC's "Today" show.
The Salahis managed to penetrate tight security and have their photos taken with President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and other White House officials at a state dinner last week for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The White House says the Salahis were not invited and their presence was seen as an embarrassing security lapse.
Much of the media focus has been on Michaele Salahi who was auditioning for upcoming reality TV show called "The Real Housewives of D.C." on the day of the dinner and had a camera crew in tow as she spent hours in a salon getting ready for the event.
The crew followed the Salahis to the White House but could not get into the dinner.
"Everything we've worked for," she told NBC, "for me -- 44 years -- destroyed."
The Salahis declined to tell NBC who invited them to the dinner, saying they had turned over documents including e-mails to Secret Service investigators.
The Salahis have been portrayed in the media as a pair of self-promoting social climbers intent on dominating the limelight and demanding money for interviews about their exploits.
"Unfortunately, we've been mischaracterized. Our lives have really been destroyed," Tareq Salahi said.
He also denied reports that he and his wife showed up uninvited for a Congressional Black Caucus dinner and had to be escorted out.
"We were invited," Tareq Salahi said. "Were we escorted out? Of course not. That's another gossip, rumor."
Asked on FOX News how irritated Obama was about the breach, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said "probably a seven or eight" on a scale of one to 10.
"If you didn't get an invite, which they didn't, you shouldn't be here at an event. That's for the safety and security of the president and his family, but also for the other guests," he said.
The U.S. Secret Service is investigating what went wrong, and Gibbs said the White House was also evaluating its procedures.
Reporting by David Morgan and Vicki Allen