Bravo’s Salahi-cious stance

Cabler confirms White House gatecrashers are in 'D.C.' mix

Bravo has confirmed what we suspected all along: That so-called White House party crashers Michaele and Tareq Salahi would be featured participants in “The Real Housewives of D.C.”

From the beginning, the network has parsed words and obfuscated in a fashion worthy of Washington, implying the Salahis weren’t necessarily part of the show, when there was no reason they’d travel around with a camera crew in tow if they weren’t. Now the channel insists showcasing fame-seeking wannabes on a TV show — and thus rendering them more famous — isn’t a “reward” for their bad behavior.

It’s hard to convey derisive laughter in print, but here goes.

Bravo senior VP Andy Cohen posted a lengthy defense of the couple’s inclusion on Huffington Post, anchored by a passage so ridiculous it must be quoted at length to fully savor its chewy absurdity: “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.”

But wait, there’s more: “What happened at the White House plays out towards the end of our series, as it occurred towards the end of our production cycle. 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.”

Bravo’s argument (and Cohen is clearly just the designated water-carrier) collapses before he completes the “Being on TV isn’t a reward” assertion. Think of Kate Gosselin, the Kardashians, “The Hills” or “Jersey Shore” gangs, not to mention earlier “Real Housewives,” who have parlayed becoming reality-TV “stars” into additional shows and other lucrative opportunities.

In our modern culture, fame alone — even notoriety — is a marketable commodity. This is especially true regarding the Salahis, who obviously yearned for celebrity, even if admission to the club meant compromising White House security.

Their two coy, eyelash-batting interviews with “Today’s” Matt Lauer only underscore how much they covet being on camera — irrespective of how they look in its glare or whether they’re sophisticated enough (from what’s been seen, doubtful) to fully comprehend the pitfalls.

Also, it’s hard to believe at least some “Housewives” producers weren’t aware what the couple was up to, which could make them complicit in the whole (potentially illegal) enterprise. The Salahis have already referenced being coached to mislead Michaele’s hairdresser, allegedly part of a plotted exchange shot multiple times.

At a minimum, the channel has undermined its credibility thanks to the too-cute “We don’t know if they’re in the show” spin, doubtless hoping the situation would cool down — but God knows, not blow over — before the program finally aired.

The bottom line is regardless of the other storylines, the intersection of Washington elites with the Salahis sideshow guarantees a tabloid feeding frenzy when the series premieres in August. Moreover, editing them out would require either shelving the project entirely (an expensive proposition) or gutting the show by discarding its most-salacious (or perhaps Salahi-cious) elements. So they bit the bullet and adopted this “Reward? Golly, we’re just impartial umpires” stance.

Watching this sordid spectacle play out brings to mind Peter Chernin’s chat with Comcast CEO Brian Roberts at the Cable Show confab in May. The former News Corp. chief operating officer wanted to know if Roberts was truly prepared for the kind of headaches a company like NBC Universal could elicit, from mercurial MSNBC commentators to controversial movies.

Chernin didn’t ask, but I wonder how Roberts feels about Bravo’s role in punking the White House at the moment these companies are seeking regulatory approval of their massive merger.

After haggling with the feds, Roberts will probably feel like celebrating when the deal eventually closes. Given what he’s acquiring, though, he’d be wise to triple-check the guest list.

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