White House defends social secretary in gate-crasher flap, couple declines to testify

December 2, 2009

INDIA-USA/White House spokesman Robert Gibbs today defended the White House social secretary, Desiree Rogers, in the controversy surrounding how a Virginia couple managed to wangle their way into President Barack Obama’s state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week.

It has been noted in news accounts that no one from the social secretary’s office was at the gate helping the Secret Service identify guests and making sure people not on the list did not get inside.

Gibbs noted that for the crush of holiday parties that have just begun at the White House, procedures have been changed to ensure someone from the social office is at the gate.

The White House sent over a memo outlining the new procedures.

But Gibbs rallied around Rogers, who is the subject today of a one-two punch of fairly critical stories — a column by the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd and a Style section piece by Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan.

Both of them note that Rogers was a guest at the event instead of paying all her attention to making sure things ran smoothly at the Obamas’ first state dinner.

Gibbs was peppered by questions about this from April Ryan of American Urban Radio.

“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 jobs here at the White House,” Gibbs said.

He said Rogers would not be testifying on Capitol Hill tomorrow at a congressional probe about how Tareq and Michaele Salahi talked their way past the Secret Service and got into the White House and mingled with Obama, VP Joe Biden, others. Gibbs said it was a separation of powers issue, that White House staffers don’t typically testify before Congress.

UPDATE: The Salahis have declined to testify at tomorrow’s hearing. Their publicist issued a statement late this evening saying the couple has provided relevant documentation, including emails and cell phone records detailing communications with a White House official, to the Secret Service and the House Homeland Security Committee.

This just in. House Homeland Security Committee chairman threatening subpoenas if Salahis are no show at tomorrow’s hearing. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, ABC News has obtained copies of emails between the Salahis and Michele S. Jones, the Pentagon official who attempted to secure tickets for the couple to the White House state dinner and arrival ceremony.

Look at ’em for yourself by clicking here and see if you think it proves their case.

Click here for more Reuters political coverage

Photo credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (Desiree Rogers arrives at White House state dinner)


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No word… (from the Pentagon connection, Michele)….no invitation…..no get in…I do not believe the Salahis…it was a “stunt” in my opinion….what are Americans coming to??????? I would like to see them prosecuted if possible. These reality shows are getting out of hand. In today’s atmosphere of threats of terroism this was definitely NOT funny.

Posted by Martha | Report as abusive

What’s the matter with her(Rogers), can’t she say NO? Another great appointment by the White House. Wait, don’t let the opportunity pass to blame this on Bush.

Posted by JIM | Report as abusive

Friends don’t let friend testify under oath. If you are stupid enough to fill and create positions for all your friends you deserve what you get. This is NOT a professional team unless you call Chicago Political Games a professional team. OHHHHHHHHHhhhhhh that’s right… YOU DO

Posted by Sunshine Connie | Report as abusive

Funny. Obama can provide cover for his staff but the gate crashers are expected to testify against themselves. Transparency anyone?

Posted by John Scott | Report as abusive

Those party crashers deserve a medal for showing up a weakness in the WH protocols!!!!Perhaps there was a reluctance on someones part becos of Political correctness?

Posted by Norman McKinstry | Report as abusive