Don't Cross Desirée Rogers

Don't Cross Desirée Rogers

Don't Cross Desirée Rogers

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Dec. 2 2009 11:45 AM

Don't Cross Desirée Rogers

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Torie Bosch Torie Bosch

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, New America, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies. 

The Salahi party crash just might be the most mind-numbing White House scandal in recent decades. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer a good sex scandal to a sneak preview of The Real Housewives of D.C. But since the story won’t die, the Washington Post ’s Robin Givhan (she who moved from New York so as to cover Michelle Obama’s shorts and " Post-Title IX arms ") has turned her eye to White House social secretary Desirée Rogers . The most fascinating part of the piece is the way Givhan explains her decision to grant anonymity to Rogers' pals:

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"Just because she has this job, it's not going to make her a worker bee," says a friend who did not want to be identified in order not to offend. "She's glamorous."

And later:

"All this talk about Desirée being lifelong friends with the Obamas is bunk. She's there because of Valerie [Jarrett]," says someone who has known Rogers for years but didn't want to be identified so as not to upset her.

"In order not to offend"? "So as not to upset her"? This is politics. Backstabbing may be de rigueur , but usually it’s at least masked as done in the name of the people, the party, or the Constitution. Rogers’ buddies just don’t want to make their friend mad, which is fine, but then they should have either elected not to return Givhan’s calls or come up with a better excuse for staying unidentified. "Didn’t want to be identified because of fear of retribution" would have been a good way to go.

Slate ’s Jack Shafer would be displeased with this use of what he terms anonymice. His close reading of the reasons cited for granting sources anonymity found that the process works best when it adheres to the " Dana Priest rules ":

They're disciplined about their use of anonymous sources, and give more credence to whistleblowers than blowhards. They present multiple sources, increasing the likelihood that the information is accurate. They serve their readers, not their sources' agendas. And the information they publish is remarkably specific-proving dates, locations, events, circumstances, participants, quantities, and the like-which makes it falsifiable . By falsifiable I mean that the very specificity of the anonymously sourced information opens the article to the possibility of being proven wrong by naysayers.

By those standards, Givhan has failed. But I bet gatherings of Rogers’ social circle will be a little tense for the coming weeks.

Photograph of Desirée Rogers by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images.