It has made the headlines for days, ‘The couple that crashed the President’s first state dinner’. The secret service quickly took the blame, but now another look is pointing responsibility to another party, and it should, social secretary Desiree Rogers.
Rodgers is now under scrutiny for the breach, because through her own admission, there was no one from her office positioned at any of the check points.
On the night of the Obama’s first state dinner, Rodgers reportedly glided past the rope line of press and photographers at 6:53 p.m., pausing to boast, “We are very excited… everything looks great.”
Sometime later, the Virginia couple, Michaele and Tareq Salahi who are now being dubbed ‘party crashers’ managed to get past Secret Service, proceed into the dinner–uninvited, the White House maintains–and pose for pictures with VIP guests and shake hands with the president. Now questions are being raised over whether Rogers, whose office drew up the guest list, was so busy basking in the limelight that she failed to notice what was unfolding in the wings.
A House committee wants answers from her about how this could happen. A key question: Was anyone from Roger’s offi ce staffing the front gate? Even though Secret Service has accepted full responsibility for the security lapse, Rogers also has indicated that none of her staff was present when the Salahis arrived. Now, as a result, her managerial style is now in question.
Cathy Hargraves, the White House staff member whose job it was to supervise the guest list for state dinners and clear invitees into the events says she was stripped of most of her responsibilities earlier this year, prompting her to resign last June.
The account of Cathy Hargraves, who formerly served as White House “assistant for arrangements,” raises new questions about whether changes that she says were made by President Obama’s social secretary, Desiree Rogers, may have contributed to the security lapses that permitted Virginia socialites Michele and Tareq Salahi to crash the state dinner for India’s prime minister last week and get themselves photographed with the president.
Hargraves tells ‘Declassified’ in an exclusive interview that, while she had originally been hired as a White House political appointee in 2001, she landed a new position on the White House residence staff in 2006 and was specifically detailed to the social office to work on state dinners.
Her job duties included overseeing the invitations for guests at state dinners and keeping track of RSVPs, she says. On the evening of state Desiree Rogers dinners, she says, she physically stood at the East Gate portico entrance and greeted each of the guests as they arrived, checking their names off a computerized printout of those who had been invited.
But when she met with Rogers last February and went over her job responsibilities, she says, the new social secretary told her, “We don’t feel we have a need for that anymore.” Rogers’s explanation, according to Hargraves: “In these economic times, I don’t think we’re going to have very many lavish expensive dinners. It wouldn’t look very good.”
It appears that the root of the problem with Rogers, and why it may be wise for the Obama administration to take another look is that her own socialite background maybe too much of an adjustment for her to stay in the background and perform the duties of a social secretary.
Several associates of Rogers, who did not want to be identified were quoted in The Washington Post making statements regarding Rogers and her background.
“Just because she has this job, it’s not going to make her a worker bee. She’s glamorous.” Others were quoted as saying that they told Rogers, that Washington was not like Chicago, it was more about discretion. But, it has not stopped her from going to New York with front row seats and Fashion Week, and wearing expensive designer gowns. Now, she’s even being criticized for trying to upstage the First Lady.
Where all of this may not sound all that serious, it is. This is more than an issue of protocol, it is about National Security. This is the White House, and there should be no room for staffers to feel that they are more important than the position they are place to serve. It was even reported that this same couple tried to crash a Black Caucus dinner this past September, and were refused at the door. They made their way through a back entrance, but were again spotted at a table where they didn’t belong, and were marched out. The same couple!
Maybe the shoes of a social secretary are too small for Rogers, she may need to go back to being a ‘Chicago socialite’.