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Obama names new social secretary to replace 'gatecrashed' aide

US President Barack Obama moved quickly to name a new social secretary to replace Desiree Rogers at the centre of a controversy over two wannabe reality TV stars crashing his first state dinner for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

world Updated: Feb 28, 2010 11:25 IST

US President Barack Obama moved quickly to name a new social secretary to replace Desiree Rogers at the centre of a controversy over two wannabe reality TV stars crashing his first state dinner for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

A day after Rogers, a close friend of the Obamas from their Chicago days, stepped down three months after the embarrassing security breach at the Nov 24 event, Julianna Smoot was appointed deputy assistant to the president and social secretary Saturday.

"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 in a statement.

"I am humbled and excited to take on the role of White House Social Secretary and support the Obama administration in a different capacity," said Smoot, who was most recently US Trade Representative Ron Kirk's chief of staff.

"Over the last year, I have had the honour of building relationships in the international community through my work at USTR, and I am looking forward to implementing this experience at the White House," she said.

Smoot was the national finance director for the 2008 presidential campaign of Obama, where she headed a record-setting fundraising operation.

Obama and first lady Michelle Obama issued a statement Friday saying they are "enormously grateful" to their long time friend Rogers "for the terrific job she's done as the White House Social Secretary."

But the Obamas made no mention of what he had called a "screw up" the Nov 24 night when an uninvited Virginia couple, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, one dressed in a tuxedo and the other in a bright red lehnga choli, slipped past layers of security to crash the dinner.

Rogers admitted that nobody from her staff was working at the gates and check points when the Salahis slipped in. The couple spent up to two hours on the grounds, making it all the way to the Blue Room to shake hands with the president and prime minister.

The US Secret Service, the agency responsible for protecting the president, his family, and visiting dignitaries has taken blame for the incident, but Rogers came under heavy fire for not stationing someone at the gate with Secret Service agents in a break from past practice.

The Salahi episode was not a factor in her resignation.

"The incident at the State Dinner was not a deciding factor. But it did show me a side of the job and of Washington that I had not seen before," Rogers told the Chicago Sun Times on Friday.