WASHINGTON – White House social secretary Desiree Rogers is stepping down three months after taking heavy criticism for allowing gate crashers into the administration's first state dinner. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama issued a statement Friday thanking their longtime friend from Chicago for doing a "terrific job " organizing hundreds of events during her little more than a year on the job.
They didn't indicate a reason for Rogers' departure, effective sometime next month.
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. Rogers was in charge of the event.
She later acknowledged not having staff from her office at security checkpoints to help identify guests. 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.
The tall and glamorous Rogers also was criticized for her high profile and appearing in glossy magazine photo spreads.
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.
"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.