Even before a single episode of The Real Housewives of D.C. had aired, Michaele and Tareq Salahi were already the most infamous cast members, thanks to their alleged “party crashing” at the White House State Dinner last November. Since then, many have painted the Salahis as bottom-feeders, looking for any and every way to inch their way inside D.C.’s most powerful and prestigious circles. Through it all, the Salahis have stood behind who they are, what they’ve done, and mostly, one another. Last night on Watch What Happens Live, the couple explained they couldn’t be happier with the “explosive” season finale, which showed that they did not give fake names to gain entry into the White House (though the question of whether or not they were actually invited still stands). EW caught up with the Salahis to further examine their reality show identities, discuss their plans for the future, and try to make some sense of their rise to fame er…infamy.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’ve said you are happy with the finale. Why?
TAREQ SALAHI: I think it says it all, [and] the video shows it all. We’re very pleased with it. It completely vindicates us.
MICHAELE SALAHI: We’re really excited that [it] was Bravo’s finale, that they did it so perfectly, [and] that they showed what really happened. Good or bad, we’re just very happy they captured who we really are, so it’s [been] a fun, fun experience.
TS:…but we’re vindicated. I mean we feel great, we feel relieved.
Do you have any regrets from the night of the State Dinner?
MS: No, absolutely not. [It’s] the second greatest night [next] to our wedding. If we had to do it all over again, would we? Yes, because we believed in what we were told. Nobody would go with a film crew, a bright red dress, and the name Salahi to be embarrassed on camera [laughs]. When we were told that we were a part of the receiving line and a part of that night, we certainly were looking forward to it. So no regrets, right Tareq?
TS: No, no, none. We did what we were told. We did nothing wrong as now the video proves. Everything that’s in the book and what the video shows, [when] you put all the pieces of the puzzle together, that chapter of our life is now done. Boom, closed.
How did you feel about seeing the reaction from the other women?
MS: That was probably the hardest part for me — seeing them sit around and [be] really happy [while] wishing harm on me. Especially Stacie, I bonded with her in Paris, I care about her. I care about all the women. I’m sad Cat’s going through a break-up. I really care about them. I don’t really understand that kind of mentality. I come from a different place, [and] I think it’s really backward and barbaric to take pleasure and sit around and jump up on your couch and wish someone harm. It’s inhumane, and it’s not who I thought those women were. I think at the reunion show you’re going to see a lot more drama. For sure.
What is you relationship with the other women at the moment?
MS: I just saw the episode last night, and I’m hurt, so right now I need to just take a pause. I’m very forgiving and a person who moves forward, I think that’s what you have to do in life. Maybe at that time they were just angry for whatever reason. I saw different sides of them, so I guess I’m just trying to understand it right now. Especially Stacie, that’s not the person I know.
Do you think the show portrayed them accurately?
MS: I do. That’s the thing, good or bad, the show caught us. So if we do something silly, if somebody’s had too much wine…
MS: …if I’m being silly, hugging too many people, [or] doing whatever and looking flaky, that’s who I am, I’m sorry! [Laughs] It’s okay. I think they captured who they are, and for whatever reason, they had a lot of anger.
What were your thoughts when you were first approached for the show?
MS: [I was] so excited! It was in March 2009 and I remember, I thought, “Oh my gosh, Real Housewives is coming to D.C.!” What an honor to be a part of a franchise that’s already huge, and [that] Andy Cohen has just blown up and made so successful. Love or hate it, whether people admit it, they’re watching it. When I was asked, I thought, “Somebody wants to talk about my life and talk about what I’ve done in D.C.?”
How have things changed since the episodes began airing?
TS: We’ve seen a huge shift in opinion about us, just since the episode aired last night. It’s been unbelievable.
What about at home in D.C.? How are things different?
MS: After the White House, we [became] afraid. Our attorneys [and] everyone said, “Stay away; don’t talk.” The White House officials said “Don’t talk.” So we got really afraid, and that paranoia wasn’t good. It’s better that everybody talks, rather than just not talk at all. We’re really excited [that] we’re back [and] very much a part of the scene. Recently [Tareq’s] father passed, and it’s been very painful, but the only good thing out of the tragedy of losing his dad is [that] the mother and son hugged. There was already progression there, but now it really has healed. And the beautiful property [Oasis Winery] that you see in demise right now will [be] restored to what it was, and that’s the greatest thing: that the mother and son are back together as a family.
That is great. I’m so sorry for your loss.
TS: Thank you, thank you. Bravo really did capture a lot of that through the season. All that’s real. It’s a compelling story that’s just beginning to be told, to be honest.
So what are you future plans? What’s next with Oasis? Michaele, you mentioned possibly writing a book?
MS: Oh my god, I know, is that too funny? [Laughs]. There is a great book out right now — it’s not our book — it’s called Cirque Du Salahi: Be Careful Who You Trust and Diane Dimond did a great job. What I’m going to do is just really focus on rebuilding Oasis with my husband and his mother, and try to do a lot of good on the way. I’m very active with multiple sclerosis and have been for the last decade of my life. I get letters every day from people all over the world who have MS, [and] I think I want to be on the forefront of making a difference. With MS, there’s a tremendous amount of depression. There’s all kinds of symptoms, and I think I’ve hidden it well for 17 years, and I could show someone else, maybe carry them through like my mom did.
TS: All these MS chapters have been coming out and asking for Michaele to be involved and be supportive. So it looks like there’s a role being developed behind the scenes where Michaele can be a great advocate for MS.
Are you open to a second season of The Real Housewives?
MS: Oh yeah. There’s so much more to say. I mean we just started. There’s more than just that one night. Somehow the White House just became one night, but there’s five of us and it’d be interesting to see how — you’ll see a lot in the reunion — relationships [are] in reality. Okay we don’t like each other, [and] these are the reasons why. That’s what life’s about. We do that with our families. People fight.
Has the exposure been the biggest benefit of the show?
MS: No matter where I go, people are loving, [and] they want to tell you about their life. The most moving part about being in this is having the opportunity for people to even care to talk [to you] about, “Hey, I love you on that show and I get bullied too,” or “I have this problem,” or “I can relate to this woman,” or “I can relate to you.” It’s kind of fun to hear that feedback.
TS: Especially if you look on the Bravo blog today. A lot of people [are] relating to the bullying that happened to Michaele [because of what] sadly happened to [Rutgers student Tyler Clementi]. You’ve got real-life situations happening and again, it’s a true compelling story. Michaele came out and revealed her MS. [That’s] big. It’s inspiring to others, [and] people are coming out [and] talking to Michaele. We have to plan an extra hour to get through the airport [now].
MS: [Laughs] We do now! It’s funny. I think back to it almost a year ago [when] we were afraid to go out of our house, literally, after the White House. Now when we go somewhere, we do plan ahead because people are just like, “Oh gosh, I’m from Chicago,” or “I’m from here,” and they want to tell you, and I think it’s such a privilege to be a part of this show…
TS: And Michaele wants to listen!
MS: I want to listen! I’m like “Okay, you’re from Chicago, you’re doing what?”
TS: She stops and talks to everyone.
MS: Because we all matter. We’re on a show [and] we have the opportunity to hear people out, [to] hear what they’re going through. I see it more as just a great way to keep connecting with people. That’s been the high for me, and it’s an honor to be a part of a franchise. But even more, to connect with all these different types of people.
It sounds like you should have your own talk show.
MS: [Laughs] Hey! Your words…
TS: That’s what Kathie Lee [Gifford] said [laughs].
Have you thought about that? Or any other television projects?
MS: I would love that! That would be fun.
TS: When Michaele co-hosted Today with Kathie Lee and Hoda [Kotb] last week, I think she found her new calling. I’m telling you, she was so good.
MS: We had fun. We did dance breaks in the commercials! They were laughing, but you have to have fun. I had a blast with them. They’re very smart women, [and] they’re inspiring women. If I could just [do] a smidge of what they do, that would be a dream. I would love to do that.