Fabulousness in the crosshairs: The White House social secretary.
Quick, can you name the last three White House social secretaries? No? One generally has to go back to Letitia Baldridge in the Kennedy administration to pluck a memorable name from that cloistered list — and she only got famous after she left the White House.
Desiree Rogers, welcome to your Washington feeding frenzy! You will find it more hostile, corrosive and unforgiving than the fashion shows you attend with Anna Wintour.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said today that Rogers will be sending her regrets to House lawmakers seeking her testimony in a probe of how gatecrashers Tareq and Michaele Salahi made it into the state dinner Tuesday night. He also got visibly impatient with questioning on the matter from the press corps.
Increasingly, the blame for the Salahi affair is focusing on Rogers — who also raised Washington eyebrows by attending the state dinner she helped organized. But her unwelcome moment in the spotlight also includes a strong whiff of score-settling and public chastisement for one who so assiduously seeks the spotlight.
By Washington's assuredly grim, outmoded cultural and social standards, Rogers is too flashy, to heat-seeking, too high-profile and too New York City for this town! If she did her job perfectly, all that posing in Prada might be tolerated. But now it looks like she screwed up, so Rogers is going to have to pay big.
Michael Isikoff opened the parry with this piece in Newsweek, blaming Rogers for the lax security that allowed the Salahis to meet (and reportedly anger) President Obama.
The rest of the news media is dutifully piling on: “Is is High Noon for Desiree Rogers?” asks New York Magazine. “Diva in the White House,” sniffed the Huffington Post. And the ultimate kiss of future employment in the private sector: “Desiree not losing White House gig,” reports the Chicago Sun-Times.
Robin Givhan revealed in the Washington Post today that she's been gathering string on Rogers for awhile, unspooling a withering profile of the high-flying social secretary and noting that no one with a clipboard was guarding the gate Tuesday night when Rogers was posing in her Comme des Garcons couture.
Her friends back in Chicago pleaded with Rogers to tone down her profile when she went to work at the White House, Givhan writes:
They warned her of the ways of Washington, its desire for discretion, and urged to keep her profile low. In the nation's capital, no one need know whether the social secretary wore Nina Ricci or Halston, just that she was appropriately clothed.
But Rogers has never been an introvert.
Maureen Down also penned a takedown in the New York Times, noting Rogers made herself a target early on:
Desirée Rogers…has been cruising for a bruising since telling The Wall Street Journal in April: “We have the best brand on Earth: the Obama brand. Our possibilities are endless.” She wanted to pose for The Journal in an Oscar de la Renta gown in the first lady’s garden, but the press secretary, Robert Gibbs, vetoed that.
The statuesque social secretary brandishing a Harvard M.B.A. and animal-print designer shoes is not any mere party planner. The old friend of the first couple from Chicago has the exalted and uncommon title of social secretary and special assistant to the president.
For his part, Gibbs declined to address his fashion veto and signaled that the White House is circling the wagons around Rogers. He expressed total ignorance of any criticism of her “remarkable work” which he said pleased the first family, who find her “terrific and wonderful.”
“I've not heard any of that criticism. I've not read any of that criticism,” Gibbs said. “The president, the first lady and the entire White House staff are grateful for the job that she does and thinks she has done a terrific and wonderful job pulling off a lot of big and important events here at the White House.”