White House Staffer Resigns in Cirque du Salahi's Wake

By Matthew Stabley and DARLENE SUPERVILLE
|  Saturday, Feb 27, 2010  |  Updated 2:18 PM EDT
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Desiree Rogers

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A White House staffer unsuspectingly dragged into the spotlight in the wake of the alleged White House party crashers' notorious attention grab is resigning.

White House social secretary Desiree Rogers' resignation takes effect sometime next month, a White House aide told the Associated Press.

The White House announced Saturday that Julianna Smoot would replace Rogers. She comes from the office of U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, where she serves as Chief of Staff.

"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.

Rogers came under fire for her handling of the first state dinner held by President Obama's administration. The dinner for India's prime minister now is better-known for Michaele and Tareq Salahi, celebrity wannabes from northern Virginia, getting into the event through heavy security despite not being on the guest list.

The Salahis maintain they went to the dinner thinking they might be on the guest list. Pentagon officials Michele Jones was trying to get them on the list, and a production company shooting for a potential reality show -- Bravo's "The Real Housewives of D.C." -- followed the Salahis around as they got prepared for the dinner.

Rogers later acknowledged not having staff from her office at security checkpoints to help identify guests, which was standard practice in previous administrations. Lawmakers had demanded that she testify to Congress about her handling of the event. The White House would not allow it, citing a separation of powers and a history of White House staffers not testifying before Congress.

The House Subcommittee on Homeland Security's top Republican, Rep. Peter King, of New York, who had requested that Rogers testify, said White House staff members have testified in Congress before.

"The White House is creating a needless confrontation and is raising serious issues about its judgment on the night of the state dinner," he said.

The Obamas thanked Rogers for the fun and creative events she organized in the past year.

"We are enormously grateful to Desiree Rogers for the terrific job she’s done as the White House Social Secretary," a statement from the Obamas read.  "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."

Not to mention people auditioning for reality TV.

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 told her Chicago Sun-Times Friday that she had achieved the Obamas' goal of making it the people's White House.

"My work was really to create this framework. I think I completed that work," she said. "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.

The state dinner incident has raised homeland security concerns. When called before the House Subcommittee on Homeland Security, the Salahis invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer questions on the advice of legal counsel.

Three uniformed Secret Service officers were put on administrative leave following the state dinner incident.

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