Desiree Rogers Resigning as White House Social Secretary Months after State Dinner Crashing Incident
February 26, 2010 - 5:50 PMWhite House social secretary Desiree Rogers is stepping down three months after an uninvited couple crashed the Obama administration's first state dinner and she was heavily criticized for allowing it to happen.
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama issued a statement thanking their longtime friend from Chicago for "the terrific job she's done" organizing hundreds of events during her little more than a year on the job.
They indicated no reason for the departure, effective sometime next month after a transition period.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Rogers was neither forced out nor asked to leave.
"She's decided it's time to go back to doing things that she loves," Gibbs said Friday.
Rogers' handling of the Nov. 24 state dinner came under fire after a celebrity-seeking northern Virginia couple got into the exclusive South Lawn affair without a formal invitation, despite heavy White House security. As social secretary, Rogers was in charge of the event.
She later acknowledged not having staff from her office at security checkpoints to help identify guests, a departure from the practice in previous administrations. Lawmakers had demanded that she testify about her handling of the event, and one wanted to subpoena her. The White House would not allow her to testify, citing the constitutional separation of powers.
Tall and glamorous, Rogers also was criticized for having a profile higher than the social secretaries before her. She gave interviews, appeared in glossy magazine photo spreads and dressed in high-end designer labels.
Rogers, 50, told the Chicago Sun-Times on Friday that she was leaving because she had achieved a major goal of the Obamas: turning the White House into the "people's house" by opening it up to many of those who normally do not get to visit.
"My work was really to create this framework. I think I completed that work," she told her hometown paper. "Our office has been able to lay the foundation for what will be known as the 'people's house' and it has already taken shape."
Rogers said she planned to explore opportunities in the corporate world, where she worked before joining the administration. She arrived in Chicago after getting an MBA and has worked at AT&T and a gas and utilities company.
Gibbs said she personally informed the Obamas of her decision.
"When she took this position, we asked Desiree to help make sure that the White House truly is the people's house and she did that by welcoming scores of everyday Americans through its doors, from wounded warriors to local schoolchildren to NASCAR drivers," the president and Mrs. Obama said.
Associated Press writer Ben Feller contributed to this report.
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