His uncle, John Johnson, was also a butler, and the flouting of safety protocols that has made the White House a coronavirus hot spot has also put the career civil servants who work where President Trump and first lady Melania Trump live at risk of exposure. It has Allen puzzled and incensed.
“I would be begging my dad and uncle, ‘You need to get the hell up out of there,’ ” he said. “It’s like: ‘Get out! Get out!’ ”
The White House residence staff members are largely Black and Latino, and often elderly, according to Kate Anderson Brower, who compiled a trove of interviews with former staffers for her book “The Residence.” Numbering 90-some full-time ushers, butlers, housekeepers, valets, florists, engineers and cooks charged with maintaining the historical house and creating a comfortable home free from prying eyes, they work more closely with the first family than perhaps anyone else in that building. These employees often keep their positions for decades and work for administration after administration, viewing their job as holding up the integrity of the White House regardless of who is in office.
“They’re supporting an institution, not a singular presidency,” said Anita McBride, who was Laura Bush’s chief of staff and is a White House historian for American University.
Discretion, too, is a key component of a residence staffer’s job. Speaking out about anything, including working conditions, can be a cause for dismissal. Two members of the housekeeping department who tested positive several weeks ago were told to use “discretion” when discussing their diagnosis, according to a New York Times report Monday that The Washington Post confirmed.
As the residence staff has been caring for the first family, a chorus of concern has started to rise among former White House and residence staff members about whether