White House Florist Butts Heads With First Lady Michelle Obama

White House Florist Laura Dowling preparing the floral arrangements for a State Dinner Photo: Getty Images/The Washington Post
White House Florist Laura Dowling preparing the floral arrangements for a State Dinner Photo: Getty Images/The Washington Post

Silent exit of traditionalist White House flower arranger causes speculation of unbridgeable aesthetic rift with modern First Lady

Big name departures are a fact of life for US presidents as their influence wanes in the second term, but few White House exits in recent memory have caused as much intrigue as the departure of the Obama administration’s chief florist.

Dubbed the “War of the Roses” by the US media, the departure of Laura Dowling only became public six weeks after she was “escorted from the building”, according to one unnamed source quoted by a Washington Post gossip column, sparking speculation of a rift with the First Lady, Michelle Obama.

Officially all is well, with the East Wing office of Michelle Obama issuing a statement thanking Ms Dowling for her “lively and colourful” floral arrangements which have adorned official State Dinners and White House side tables since she was appointed in 2009.

“No two arrangements were ever the same and each one left guests with a lasting impression of the elegance and history of the People’s House. We are grateful for her contribution over the years and wish her well,” it said.

However East Wing watchers noted that Ms Dowling’s belated send-off was not signed by Mrs Obama and was distinctly tepid compared to the fulsome tributes paid to other departing White House retainers like Sam Kass, the Obamas’ personal chef, who left in December.

In a statement issued through her lawyers, Ms Dowling denied being “escorted from the building”, saying that she had “resigned” to explore “exciting new opportunities” and would soon be launching a new design consultancy.

“It’s been such an honour to work at the White House and I will always be grateful for this incredible opportunity,” she said.

While some heard the gritting of teeth, a loyal friend of Ms Dowling who spoke to The Telegraph on condition of anonymity fiercely denied there was any “story” behind the departure, although the friend was unable to explain why it had taken six weeks for the White House to announce the parting of ways.

“I don’t think she was fired,” the friend said, suggesting that long hours and a desire to capitalise commercially on such a high-profile position explained the decision to leave.

“I have hardly seen her since she got that job. She has been working non-stop, every evening. I don’t think it was a negative parting,” the friend added.

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SOURCE: The Telegraph – Peter Foster

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