The New York Times reported on Monday that First Lady Melania Trump announced plans to renovate the iconic White House Rose Garden and the critics reacted swiftly to the news with scathing commentary.
Trump said the renovation will involve installing electrical equipment to better facilitate television appearances, as well as a new limestone walkway. New shrubs and flowers will also be planted as an “act of expressing hope and optimism for the future.”
“Our country has seen difficult times before, but the White House and the Rose Garden have always stood as a symbol of our strength, resilience and continuity,” she said at a meeting of the Committee for the Preservation of the White House.
On social media, critics pointed out that it appeared to be a tone-deaf move given the economic troubles facing many Americans as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the economy.
“Arranging flowers on the Titanic,” noted professor and journalist Jeff Jarvis.
“It’s not like she could use her time and power to help the tens of millions of people suffering in America. I suppose she would rather just let them eat cake than lend comfort and help to those in need,” one individual wrote.
“Better hurry,” suggested author Rick Wilson.
Others criticized the idea of using taxpayer money to fund a renovation while the deficit continues to explode. However, the project will be funded by private donations with support from the National Park Service.
The renovations are expected to take three weeks to complete and will include removing crab apple trees to be replaced with rose shrubs. Pink “peace” and white “J.F.K.” roses will be planted as well. New drainage will be installed and the electrical infrastructure will be updated to make televised appearances easier.
President Donald Trump has frequently used the garden to host press conferences and other televised appearances, as have other past presidents. But as The New York Times noted, the president has often pushed the boundaries of what the yard has been used for in the past, hosting events in temperatures that range from 40 degrees Fahrenheit to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
He has said that he prefers to be outdoors because the natural light favors his skin tone. The space has been used by him to welcome fans.
Some political strategists have said the renovation is a common tactic among presidents as they ramp up campaign efforts, with the idea that they will be hosting more events in the space.
This is not the first time the first lady has faced criticism for working on White House renovations while the country faces the coronavirus pandemic. In March, she renovated the tennis courts on the grounds to much criticism.