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A diplomatic imbroglio: Ambassadors denied entry to White House party

From Elise Labott, CNN State Department Producer
  • The names and birthdates on the check-in list didn't match the ambassadors' IDs
  • The party was being held in the diplomats' honor
  • The White House regrets "that some departed due to the delay"

Washington (CNN) -- The White House has another party protocol problem on its hands after as many as 30 diplomats were stopped at the White House gate and not allowed into a Tuesday evening party being held in the diplomats' honor.

As many as 30 senior diplomats were denied entry initially, CNN was told.

Several ambassadors who spoke to CNN after the reception said they were barred from entering the reception for Chiefs of Mission and Charges d'Affaires because the information on their identification didn't match the names and dates of birth on the check-in list. The ambassadors asked not to be named to preserve relations between their countries and the White House.

The party, an annual White House diplomatic reception, is a "must-attend" on the Washington diplomatic social calendar.

White House spokesman Ben Chang acknowledged that "a few" guests were delayed at the entrance to the White House due to "an error in processing their personal data."

Two regular visitors to the White House, Omani Ambassador Hunaina Sultan al-Mughairy and Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani, were among several ambassadors who left, rather than wait outside.

"While eventually resolved, we regret that some departed due to the delay and apologize to those inconvenienced," Chang said.

The ambassadors CNN spoke to were good-natured about having to miss the cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, but one couldn't resist comparing the experience to the infamous White House party crashers Tareq and Michaele Salahi.

"I guess the Salahis can get in, but too bad I can't," one of the ambassadors quipped.

The Salahis got through security at the White House gate last year for a state dinner for the prime minister of India. They shook hands with President Barack Obama and had their pictures

taken with Vice President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The couple claimed they were invited to the affair, but the White House denied that.

CNN Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry contributed to this report