February 27th, 2010
02:13 PM ET
13 years ago

White House announces new social secretary

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/27/art.drogers0227.gi.jpg caption="The White House has announced its replacement for outgoing social secretary Desiree Rogers, pictured."]
Washington (CNN) - The White House announced a new social secretary Saturday, a day after confirming that Desiree Rogers planned to step down from the position.

Julianna Smoot, who is chief of staff for the office of U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, will replace Rogers.

"Julianna shares our commitment to creating an inclusive, dynamic and culturally vibrant White House, and Michelle and I are pleased to have her join our team," President Barack Obama said in a statement.

Rogers' office came under scrutiny in recent months after a couple who lacked an invitation were allowed into Obama's first state dinner.

In an interview with CNN on Friday, Rogers said she was leaving voluntarily and that her decision was unrelated to the fallout over the security breach.

"It has nothing to do with that," she said. "It's Secret Service's job to handle security. Not the Social Secretary's office."

The president and first lady acknowledged Rogers' exit in a statement Friday that did not mention last November's party-crashing incident.

"When she took this position, we asked Desiree to help make sure that the White House truly is the People's House," they said, "and she did that by welcoming scores of everyday Americans through its doors, from wounded warriors to local schoolchildren to NASCAR drivers.

"She organized hundreds of fun and creative events during her time here, and we will miss her. We thank her again for her service and wish her all the best in her future endeavors."

In an e-mail to CNN earlier on Friday, Rogers said, "It has been incredible setting the foundation for the [White House] for this historical presidency. Headed back to private sector."

"I accomplished initially what I came to do," Rogers told CNN later. "I like strategy. I like building something. It's built... the foundation of the [social secretary's ]office is good and solid."

Rogers did not say where she'll be working. She said she'll be "around to work on the transition" to a new social secretary at the White House.

She summed up her experiences at the White House in another note: "330 events. Halloween for 3,000. Easter egg roll for 30,000. Music series with performances and the performers teaching the students during the day. Latin, jazz, country, civil rights. "

In December, the White House was accused of stonewalling as Congress investigated the party-crasher security breach at Obama's first state dinner. At issue was whether the White House was protecting Rogers from testifying about how Tareq and Michaele Salahi were able to crash the first White House state dinner. The couple did not have an invite but were allowed in.

Rogers' office planned the dinner.

At the time, Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan said his agency would take the heat for the incident.

"This is our fault and our fault alone," he told federal lawmakers. "There's no other people to blame here. ... Look at me and blame me," he told members of the House Homeland Security Committee.

- CNN's Ed Henry, Suzanne Malveaux and John King contributed to this report.

soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Mike, formerly from Syracuse

    About time. Once again a decision that should have taken hours took months. That's assuming Obama really did man up and fire her. God help us if someone ever launches nukes at us. obama will want to form a commission to study it for 3 months before ordering a retaliation.

    February 27, 2010 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
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