Michaele Salahi says she doesn't like talking about that time she and her husband Tareq attended — some would say "crashed" — a party at the White House. "It's been media torture," she says. The new star of Bravo's The Real Housewives of Washington, D.C. would rather tell the world about her latest claim to fame: a manhandling, she claims, by Whoopi Goldberg.
Salahi, along with her co-stars — Catherine Ommanney, Mary Amons, Stacie Turner and Lynda Erkiletian — appeared on The View Wednesday, where co-hosts Joy Behar and Sherri Shepherd laid into them for, well, being on The Real Housewives. Via her lawyer, Lisa Bloom, Salahi is claiming that Goldberg grabbed her arm, and later, verbally attacked her backstage for not talking enough about that night at the White House — and Salahi appears to be further courting the controversy. Her Facebook page was updated immediately, saying that a response on national TV would be forthcoming. Then, on Thursday, Salahi related the incident at length on NBC's Today and said Goldberg "berated" her. (The other Housewives, who were next to Salahi on Today, sat by silently for the first six minutes of the interview before Amons interjected: "We're so tired of hearing and talking about this.")
Speaking with TVGuide.com at an NBC party just days before the series premiere of The Real Housewives of Washington D.C., Salahi spoke openly about her love-hate relationship with the media, the night of the White House party, and Diane Dimond's forthcoming book Cirque Du Salahi — all before spying her favorite journalist ever, The Washington Post's Lisa De Moraes, and leaving us out in the cold.
TVGuide.com: Why did you choose to do this reality show?
I was not familiar with the Housewives franchise. In March of 2009, some of the producers came and said, "We're interested. We've been following you. You always look fashionable and you do a lot of charity. You seem a very big part of the D.C. scene and we'd like to test you for a show." I was like, "Wow." I was so excited, like anyone would be. So I sat down, I did a test. At one point, they came back to me and said what the show was. That's when I started watching it.
I learned about every city. Now I know them all and I love them all for different reasons. O.C. is just very easygoing, loving, pretty girls. New York is very strong. New Jersey has the excitement of letting anything you feel fly. Atlanta — Hotlanta — those girls are fun. To be in Washington D.C., it's not only an honor for me as a girl, as a woman, but it's also huge for the nation's capital. This series will show diversity. It will show that people from all over the world are there. It's exciting.
TVGuide.com: In every edition of Housewives, each woman is defined by a specific trait. Your co-star Lynda is pegged as the woman dating the younger man. How do you hope to be defined?
Oh, man, that's a good question. When I watched [the other editions], I said, "Oh my gosh, I hope they're going to be nice to me."
TVGuide.com: Most of the women are not highlighted in the most positive way. Were you not worried about what the show would do to you?
When I agreed to do it, I thought, "What an honor for women." I do love the franchise. I think it's done a lot, not just for women, but for the cities. And if they highlight you in a certain a way, maybe that is the person you are. I'm anxious to see. I haven't watched the first episode. What does it look like? I can't wait.
TVGuide.com: You seem to be the through-line, the woman connecting all the others. Did you know your co-stars beforehand?
I referred Lynda and Mary to the show. The other two I bonded with. I went to Paris with Stacie, and Cat came to a Polo event we had. I got close to them. Wait, when I watch, is my mind going to be blown?
TVGuide.com: There is significant time devoted to Lynda calling you out for being too thin.
You know,through life, if someone hurt me or said something that wasn't nice, I've always been told to rise above it, and I have. But now I just don't let people put me down, and I tell them in a nice way. Like, "What are you doing?" I don't feel it builds someone up to tear someone else down. I'm totally moving forward.
TVGuide.com: Did you discuss it with Lynda after the fact?
I did follow up and I told her nicely how I felt. I was hurt, especially having known her 15 years. The funniest part? I'm the same weight I was at 18 that I am now at 44. You might hate me or be jealous, Lynda, because I'm thin, but I don't know why weight became such a focus. She's never mentioned it in 15 years. I'm the same girl, I'm the same weight. Maybe it was just that day. I have no idea why she said it.
TVGuide.com: So what do you hope your defining characteristic on the show is?
My thing has got to be that I love people. I don't know how it's going to come out. I hug people all the time. The women are all really different in great ways. I find it fascinating to learn about each person. That's fulfilling for me. If I can do something good along the way, if I can give back to people, that's what I hope you'll see. That's how I am.
TVGuide.com: Crashing the White House party — would you do it all over again?
Everybody has to ask. Nobody lets me out! I would do it all over again because, to be honest, I was happy to be invited. [Tareq and I] went, gave our names, we were announced. Would I do it over again? Yes, because I thought I was invited.
TVGuide.com: So it's all been worth it?
We say it's the second best night to our wedding. And we've had incredible nights. We were the guests of Prince Charles for our engagement at St. James Palace. We've gone to Israel and met the Foreign Minister. We've been all over the world meeting different people. Hopefully you'll see in the show that it's not just a new thing for us. We've been very much a part of politics, supporting different candidates and politicians. My husband donated a quarter million dollars in wine to the [Democratic National Committee] over the last 10 years. We've been very active.
TVGuide.com: You're cooperating with Diane Dimond on a book she's writing about you and your husband. What can we expect?
It's called Cirque Du Salahi: Be Careful Who You Trust. It's about my life and my husband's life and then our life together as a couple. You'll see all the different facets. Diane has been doing her own investigating and she came to us and said, "Will you answer some of my questions?" She has such great credibility in the industry. We talked to so many attorneys and people guiding us, and they all said, "If there's anyone who you can talk with, it's her. She is respected and has been around a long time." The book is almost complete. It comes out this fall.
TVGuide.com: Are you going to get to read it before it comes out?
I hope so! She's interviewing everybody. I can't wait to read it. When I heard the title, I thought, OK, she's talking about the media circus of our life and maybe talking about everything we've gone through.
TVGuide.com: But it's a circus you clearly enjoy.
Because I love people. The media after the White House? Of course no one would want to go through that. That was so much misinformation that was getting spun.
TVGuide.com: Do you feel like you'll be able to get your side out there?
Just beginning to.
TVGuide.com: Do you think being on The Real Housewives of Washington D.C. will help that?
If anyone can, the show and the [producers] can. They know the real me. And they were with me that day.
At this point, Salahi cut our chat short to approach Washington Post TV columnist Lisa De Moraes. In June, De Moraes wrote a feature about Salahi — "Michaele Salahi: A 'Real Housewives' star is born," the headline read — after previewing the first episode of Housewives. Seemingly unbeknownst to Salahi, it was not flattering to her nor Bravo. "I have to pay homage to this woman," Salahi enthused to De Moraes. "You said I was the most authentically phony person, which I love because it made me laugh. And then you said a star is born, so I love you. You're the only one who has ever, ever written anything nice about me at The Post... The only person I love is Lisa."
Here's what De Moraes actually wrote: "Michaele brims with a phoniness that supersedes merely phony. She's so phony she's authentic. Michaele may be the most authentically phony person in the history of the Real Housewives franchise." De Moraes also quoted Bravo executive Andy Cohen, who tried to divorce himself and the network from endorsing Salahi's behavior: "'To the people who might excoriate us and say we're making Michaele famous or glorifying what she did . . . we don't make shows to make people famous and as a corollary we don't view being on a television show either as a reward or a punishment.'"
After professing her love, Salahi asked De Moraes to hang out. "Listen, what are you doing later tonight? Seriously, do you have any DVDs I can watch? Can I take you to dinner or drinks?... It's been media torture." De Moraes side-stepped the offer and instead asked Salahi about her past and upcoming media appearances.
The Real Housewives of Washtington D.C. premieres tonight at 9/8c on Bravo.