It started out like a typical episode of The View on Wednesday: co-hosts Sherri Shepherd and Joy Behar ribbed their guests with tough – but playful – questions. But backstage after the show, a major drama played out.
When Michaele Salahi and her Real Housewives of D.C. castmates – Mary Schmidt Amons, Lynda Erkiletian, Catherine Ommanney and Stacie Scott Turner – appeared on the ABC talk show, the newly-minted reality star was rattled after she said Whoopi Goldberg, who was offstage for the segment, walked on the set, touched her arm and tried to refocus her on the topic at hand: her alleged crashing of the White House state dinner last November.
Though the encounter occupied no more than several seconds of airtime, offstage, an ugly scene reportedly happened when Salahi and her husband Tareq complained to producers about what she tells PEOPLE was a “humiliating and torturous” experience at the hands of Goldberg – and her View co-hosts.
“The first encounter I had with this woman is her grabbing my arm and telling me to change the subject,” Salahi tells PEOPLE in a phone interview Thursday. “It was very inappropriate … They want to torture me. I didn t know being interviewed on the View would be this horrific.”
During that interview segment, Salahi also exchanged heated words with her Housewives costar Erkiletian, who alleged that Tareq threw a glass of red wine on her at a recent press event in Los Angeles. (Salahi fired back that Erkiletian lobbed a glass of Scotch back in her husband s face.) The interview was testy, and afterward Salahi said, “When I got off stage I was fine, but then I began to cry. Whoopi came in and said ‘Did you expletive say that I hit you?’ ”
According to a statement on ABC’s Web site, Salahi told producers that Goldberg “hit” her. Salahi tells PEOPLE she used the word “grab.”
Goldberg doesn’t deny the backstage confrontation happened but denies she hit Salahi. You know how I denied it,” she said, “choice words. And I make no apology for my choice words.”
But the situation escalated after Salahi’s husband Tareq intervened.
“Tareq, my husband, said you need to apologize to my wife,” Salahi tells PEOPLE. “Whoopi doesn t like to be told what to do. He said, ‘We’re just guests and this is an inappropriate way to treat guests.’ ”
But Goldberg says Tareq “got in her face, had his BlackBerry out and started taking pictures of me. And needless to say, I really went off on him. And there was even more choice words. It was so choice, you could have cut it with a knife and eaten them.”
At this point, Salahi says, “I was really sobbing. I just wanted to get out of there.”
While Goldberg had no more to say about the matter Thursday, and co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck read a statement on air from Salahi’s attorney reiterating that no charges were levied after the alleged White House crashing incident, Salahi says she doesn’t understand where all the purported hostility came from on the set of The View.
“Whoopi, I don t know you. I never saw Sister Act,” she says. “I don t know much about her. The fact that I have had no encounters with her except this hostility, I don t know where it’s coming from. It’s just another really painful learning lesson.” –Charlotte Triggs and Brian Orloff