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Monday
Apr112011

Ex-White House Staffer: From Salahi Slip-Up to Corporate Success

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In her first network television interview since leaving the White House as social secretary, Desiree Rogers talked openly about the pitfalls of her tenure with the Obama administration and of getting back on her feet after the 2009 Salahis scandal that tarnished her reputation.

The descendant of a Creole voodoo priestess named Marie Laveau Glapion, Rogers touted her "headstrong," Southern charm. The 51-year-old Washington insider and friend to the Obamas has reinvented herself as the CEO of Johnson Publishing Co., which produces Jet and Ebony magazines.

"It feels liberating," she told ABC News. "I feel like, for the first time, I'm in a position that allows me to really use all of my assets in a very powerful way."

Rogers talked at length about that fateful night when Tareq and Michelle Salahi, socialites from Virginia, managed to slip uninvited into the state dinner for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India in 2009.

"It's unfortunate that, you know, this happened and ... it's over," she said. "It's the past, it's behind us and that's the end of it."

Although tensions already were building between Rogers and her colleagues, the Salahis' security breach, which launched an investigation, became the trigger for her dismissal from the White House in February 2010.

Secret Service director Mark Sullivan testified in a House Homeland Security panel in December 2009 that the Salahis were able to talk themselves past the Secret Service detail at one of the White House gate checkpoints without an invitation. They then were screened and passed through into the East Wing for the state dinner on Nov. 25, 2009.

But clearly, leaving the White House hasn't held Rogers back, not even from politics. She recently was involved with former White House chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel's transition into becoming the mayor of Chicago.

With her new position with Johnson Publishing, Rogers said it was all about getting back to basics. But she was looking forward to a boom year.

"I don't do ordinary work," she said. "That is not me in the least."

The full story airs tonight on ABC’s Nightline at 11:35 p.m. ET.

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ABC News Radio