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Obama taps Washington insider as social secretary

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House has appointed a Washington insider to replace Desiree Rogers, Obama's social secretary who stepped down on Friday in the wake of an embarrassing security lapse late last year.

Julianna Smoot, who will be responsible for organizing social functions at the president's residence, is currently chief of staff to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

"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," Obama said in a statement on Saturday.

Smoot served as finance director of Obama's election campaign and formerly worked for four senators.

Smoot's predecessor, Rogers, was part of a group of Chicagoans who came to Washington with Obama. But she came under fire for a security lapse that allowed party crashers into a state dinner last year.

The White House denied on Friday that Rogers had been forced out. Rogers told an interviewer that now was "a good time for me to explore opportunities in the corporate world."

Her departure will be among the first from high-profile administration posts since Obama took office in January 2009.