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WASHINGTON — The White House named Julianna Smoot social secretary Saturday, filling the post soon to be vacated by Desirée Rogers, who resigned last week and came under fire after uninvited guests crashed President Obama’s first White House State Dinner.
Smoot will leave her post as chief of staff to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, where she has advised the trade negotiator for the past year. Her official title will be White House deputy assistant to the president and social secretary.
“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,” the President said.
Smoot is a native of North Carolina and was a top fund-raiser for Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign. She is a Washington insider who has worked for four current Democratic senators.
In a statement Friday, the President and First Lady said Rogers, who will step down this month, had done a “terrific job” as social secretary.
“When she took this position, we asked Desirée 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. 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.”
Rogers, the first African-American to be White House social secretary, rapidly became a fixture on the New York fashion scene, attending New York Fashion Week, numerous charity functions and giving interviews to glossy magazines.
But the State Dinner controversy in November undermined her reputation and she has kept a low profile in recent months. Rogers told her hometown paper, the Chicago Sun-Times, on Friday that the incident was “not a deciding factor” in her resignation, but that it “did show me a side of the job and of Washington that I had not seen before.”
Rogers also told the paper she would now turn her attention to reentering the corporate world she left behind when she went to Washington.