Tareq Dirgham Salahi, born May 26, 1968, in Washington, D.C. is a former American vintner and former public official. He and his wife, Michaele, gained national attention in November 2009 by allegedly crashing a White House state dinner in honor of India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In 2010, the couple were featured in the Bravo reality television show The Real Housewives of D.C.
Family and early life
Tareq Salahi's father, Dirgham Salahi was Palestinian and immigrated to the United States from Jerusalem, British Mandate of Palestine in the 1940s. His mother, Corinne, is from Belgium. Dirgham was educated as a petroleum geologist and worked in the Middle East and United States. He retired and settled in Virginia, where he became manager of an estate farm, which he subsequently bought. Corinne Salahi is the founder and director of the Montessori School of Alexandria, Virginia.
Tareq attended primary school at Ascension Academy in Alexandria, Virginia, and high school at the Randolph-Macon Academy in Front Royal, Virginia, where he graduated in 1987. He graduated from the University of California, Davis in 1994 with a bachelor's degree in oenology and business management. He met Michaele Holt at a 2000 baby shower thrown in McLean, Virginia,by real estate developer N. Casey Margenau and his wife Molly.
Tareq and Michaele married in 2003. The ceremony was held at Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. The reception was held at the Salahi family winery and was prepared by 46 chefs, hosted in a 36,000-square-foot (3,300 m2) tent, and culminated with a 30-minute fireworks display and an eight-foot wedding cake. The guest list included 1,836 guests, including Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Margaret Heckler. The wedding, originally scheduled for October 2002, had been postponed numerous times, prompting Kennedy to quip that he needed to issue "subpoenas" to the bride and groom.
In 1977, the Salahi family founded the Oasis Winery on their estate farm in Hume, Virginia. They planted some of the first Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot vines in Virginia, establishing the fifth winery in the commonwealth. The Salahis developed the business into a 15,000-case-a-year operation, and, according to court papers, grossed as much as $1 million in annual revenue in some years. The vineyard's Meritage line won Gold Medals at the 1994 and 1996 world wine championships. In 1998, Oasis launched a Cuvee "Celebration" sparkling wine which also garnered top awards.
In 1994, they formed Oasis Vineyard Inc. and appointed Tareq general manager. Tareq eventually gained a 5% minority interest in the vineyard. According to court papers, Tareq also began operating a new business out of the vineyard, Oasis Enterprises, which was developed to raise ancillary income as a venue for polo events and other functions such as weddings. Oasis Enterprises included a limo operation, wine country tours, and an events-and-catering business. A dispute arose amongst the Salahi family regarding business matters between Oasis Vineyard and Oasis Enterprises, and the winery started losing money. A lawsuit was filed, in which the Salahi family alleged, according to court filings, that assets were misdirected to Oasis Enterprises from the winery and that Tareq was misrepresenting himself as the President of the winery.
Tareq Salahi sat on the board of the American Task Force on Palestine, and in 2002 Tareq was named National Man of the Year by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in recognition of his fundraising achievements.
Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore appointed Tareq in 2000 to a three-year term on the Virginia Wine Board. At the conclusion of that term, Virginia Governor Mark Warner nominated Tareq as chairman of the Virginia Wine Tourism Office. Tareq was one of 15 board members of the Virginia Tourism Corporation, a "board that shapes Virginia's tourism policy", appointed by Gov. Tim Kaine in 2006. Kaine told MSNBC:
Tareq had served on the state's wine board under both Gov. Gilmore and Gov. Warner, and when his term on the wine board finished, he and the tourism board wanted him on that board because he's a great promoter—you won't be surprised to hear me say that.
During his time in office the Virginia Wineway, Loudoun Wine Trail, Blue Ridge Wineway and Virginia Wineries Alliance were created, attracting, according to a USDA study, 980,000 wine tourists to the state, of which 336,000 visited Piedmont wineries. Virginia Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment wrote a letter to Gov. Kaine asking for Salahi's removal from the board: "Mr. Salahi's recent outrageous behavior and personal promotion in regards to trespassing in the White House is not the face we need for Virginia tourism…I would appreciate you taking swift action to avoid any further negative situations." Salahi resigned from the Virginia Tourism Board on December 7, 2009.
Salahi describes himself as an experienced horseman who started show jumping at 5 and competed in numerous international Grand Prix events before taking up polo at 16. He was a regular competitor on the U.S. National Team and his Oasis squad won two U.S. Polo Association National Arena Titles in 1997 and 1998.
Salahi was involved with running the Courage Cup in 2006, a polo charity event to raise funds for urban youth to experience equestrian activities. A dispute over control, vendor payment, and use of proceeds from the Courage Cup reportedly led the Salahis to found the America's Polo Cup in 2007. Allegations of misuse of proceeds from the new charitable event arose, and in December 2009 the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services opened an investigation into the annual event.
The 2010 America's Polo Cup match took place on June 12 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., with teams announced as United States and India. The advertised ticket price for the event was $95 per person. The event had an attendance of about 250 people, with food from Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. Reports of the event stated that the players who represented India were actually of Pakistani origin and were from Florida. A spokesman for the Embassy of India stated that neither the Embassy nor the government of India had any association with the event. The event's website and the US team's uniforms identified an Indian company, Kingfisher Beer, as a sponsor. A spokesperson for Kingfisher denied that the company had sponsored the event.
In the 2009 White House gatecrash incident Tareq and Michaele Salahi entered a state dinner despite lacking an invitation. Michaele Salahi is a member of Bravo's The Real Housewives of Washington, D.C., and the show filmed their preparations for the dinner and followed the couple to the White House. Tim Burke, who directed MTV Blaggers!, in which a group of friends gatecrash high profile events and parties, said he was contacted by Salahi a week before the White House incident. Salahi asked him for advice on tricking his way into a black-tie event.
Following the event Tareq Salahi was requested by the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee to appear at a hearing on December 3, 2009, but he refused to attend. On December 9, 2009, the Committee on Homeland Security voted 26 to 3 to subpoena Tareq Salahi, and 27 to 2 to subpoena Michaele, for a hearing on the alleged gatecrash scheduled for January 20, 2010. The Salahis invoked the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution at the hearing. The Salahis' attorney, Stephen Best, described the Congressional inquest as "...not a hearing looking for information. This was an opportunity for a public flogging."
Court records show that more than 30 lawsuits in Virginia and Maryland have been filed against Tareq (and often his wife) or Oasis Enterprises since 2004. According to Montgomery County police detective Bill Heverly there are over 40 records of police contacts with the Salahis.
Tareq is listed as the director of the "Journey for the Cure Foundation." The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Consumer Affairs has issued a press release that cautions consumers that "Journey for the Cure Foundation, 14141 Hume Road, Hume, Virginia, has solicited contributions from Virginia citizens for allegedly charitable purposes. However, as of May 13, 2009, this organization had not registered with or been granted the appropriate exempt status by the Commissioner as required by law".
Tareq and Michaele appeared in 2010 on the Bravo reality television show The Real Housewives of D.C.. The couple clashed with other featured cast members, and the conflicts continued after the show aired. The production was not flattering to the Salahis, and included coverage of the White House gate crashing in detail.Critics have noted that the show's producers edited the material in ways that exaggerated the truth.