A Dose of Reality for State Dinner Gate Crashers

Could America finally, maybe, please, be growing sick of reality television antics? The Balloon Boy-hoaxing Heene family of Colorado put a bad taste in everybody’s mouth back in October when their quest for fame went too far; the emotionally fraught boy-in-a-bubble chase they orchestrated cost authorities an estimated $62,000 before the empty balloon eventually crashed to the ground, along with the Heenes’ hopes of reality show stardom.

And now we have the gate-crashing, national security-breaching Salahis of Washington, D.C. as the latest reality show aspiring stunt-villains.

In this month’sVanity Fair, James Wolcott writes that reality television has “not only ruined network values, destroyed the classic documentary, and debased the art of bad acting, but also fomented class warfare, antisocial behavior, and murder.”

Now add a Secret Service internal review to that list — and *update* — a Congressional hearing!

Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the White House gate crashers and reality television fame seekers who launched a thousand pens this weekend, were trying to get a lucrative spot on Bravo’s upcoming “Real Housewives of Washington, D.C.” when they donned their best tux and sari to get past the velvet ropes for the Obama administration’s first state dinner last week.

The Secret Service is now investigating the Salahis’ breach and some political names are coming down hard on them – and on the Washington couple.

Rep. Peter King, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, called for the Congressional investigation, with a few graphic scenarios to back up his point that the intruders weren’t necessarily harmless just because they passed a metal detector test.

“They could have had anthrax on them. They could have grabbed a knife from the dining room table.” King added, “The next time it will be a far worse reality than a reality TV show.”

Ed Rollins, a Republican strategist, said yesterday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the Salahis should be prosecuted for sneaking in.

“These people want a reality TV show, give them one. It’s called ‘Dealing With the Federal Prosecution System of the District of Columbia,’” Rollins said.

Now that sounds like compelling television.

And the House Homeland Security Committee chaired by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) is putting it in pre-production. They have called Secret Service Director Michael Sullivan and the gate crashers, themselves, to a hearing on “Gategate” on Thursday. As Frank James at NPR writes, the hearing ensures that the Salahis will “this week appear on a reality TV show, just not the one they expected.”

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Alexandra Fenwick is an assistant editor at CJR.