Bravo defends White House crasher's 'Real Housewives' inclusion
By Christopher Rocchio, 06/16/2010
Bravo is defending its decision to keep infamous White House party crasher Michaele Salahi as part of The Real Housewives of D.C. cast.
"We kept Michaele in the show because she has a compelling life story, distinct relationships with the other women, and most especially because she represents a very real example of the inextricably intertwined worlds of political connections with social hierarchy," Bravo programming executive Andy Cohen wrote in a Tuesday blog post.
"To the people who might excoriate us and say we're making Michaele famous or glorifying what she did: 'here's what' -- 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. That's up to the individuals who choose to do so and the people who choose to watch and react."
Salahi and her husband Tareq Salahi were accused of attending a White House state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh without an invitation in November -- which Cohen claims was "late" in The Real Housewives of D.C.'s production cycle.
"Michaele Salahi told producers that she and her husband Tareq had been invited to the White House State Dinner. The production crew filmed the Salahis' preparation and arrival at the White House gate, but left as the crew wasn't credentialed for the Dinner," wrote Cohen.
"We learned the following day -- as did everyone else, including the other D.C. Housewives -- of the alleged 'gate crashing' incident."
While Cohen added that he understood the public's curiosity as to whether or not the Salahis crashed the dinner -- allegations the couple has denied -- he was not too pleased about another aspect of the subsequent fallout.
"One of the by-products of the aftermath was continued false reporting that somehow the Salahis had used the State Dinner as a 'stunt' to be cast on the show," he wrote.
"The fact is that by November we had been shooting the series with Michaele and the other women for months. In fact, we were a few weeks away from wrapping photography on the series. Any idea that attending the State Dinner was an audition to cement participation in the show is preposterous."
Cohen acknowledged it's "the job of the legal system to decide if and how the Salahis may have broken the law" but added it's Bravo's job to present "the axiom 'truth is stranger than fiction,'" which he said "reigns supreme" at the network.
"Our decision to include them in the series speaks to a very basic programming mandate, which is to present real people as they exist within their universe. Meaning, we do not editorialize on their actions, how they raise their kids, live their lives, spend their money, or treat their friends," he explained.
"We show them as they are, with awareness but without judgment. We let them be themselves, and let the audience draw their own conclusions, and -- like with real relationships -- sometimes the way people feel about a Housewife changes throughout the season. Whatever the feeling, we leave it to the viewer to decide."
"What happened at the White House plays out towards the end of our series, as it occurred towards the end of our production cycle," he wrote.
"But the stories that unfold in the months before are as compelling -- if not more so. Michaele is one of the many characters whose lives intersect in the series and in real life; it would be unfair and unjust to the other women to say that the drama surrounding the Salahis is the focal point of the show; a lot happens, and it is riveting television."