Melania Trump has been lambasted for going ahead with a White House Rose Garden renovation project while the country remains in the grip of a number of national crises.
The White House announced Ms Trumps plans for a “significant renewal” of the garden on Monday in a press release, stating that this “much-anticipated project” sought to “improve one of the most iconic locations on the White House grounds”.
The project will include improvements for audiovisual and broadcasting needs, more accessible features in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and a healthier environment for plantings, according to the White House.
Many social media users were quick to hit out at the first lady for pushing forward with the renovation despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, record levels of unemployment, and civil unrest.
“With Nearly 150,000 dead from coronavirus, 18 Million unemployed, and unemployment benefits ending, Melania will revamp the Rose Garden as her husband does nothing to alleviate the pain and suffering,” one user tweeted.
Lots of users expressed similar sentiments, with another asking: “Why is Melania Trump announcing a Rose Garden renovation in the middle of a national crisis? 149,000 Americans have died in a window of a few short months.”
However, Ms Trump, speaking of the renovation said that “the very act of planting a garden involves hard work and hope in the possibility of a bright future”.
Former California congresswoman Katie Hill chided Ms Trump on Twitter writing: “That’s some Marie Antoinette s*** right there.”
Antoinette, the last Queen of France, began trending on twitter following the comment, which received over 19,500 likes, with users saying that the renovation was a “let them eat cake” moment.
The quote is the most famous phrase attributed to the queen, supposedly made in response to her being told that her peasant subjects were starving.
“Getting a real ‘let them eat cake’ vibe going on here,” said journalist Dan Rather.
Others have asserted that the timing of the renovation is insensitive in light of the backdrop of ongoing national civil unrest across the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
Notably, the garden provided the setting for Donald Trump’s now-notorious “law and order” president speech on 1 June with the sounds of police firing tear gas at protesters in Washington audible behind him.
The garden has been the location of many other of Mr Trump’s poignant press briefings amidst the pandemic and national protests, often acting as a setting for the president’s announcements of executive orders, speeches, and interviews in a time of national emergency.
More recently Mr Trump has delivered long, campaign-like, news conferences in the garden, utilising the space to launch political attacks on his Democratic competition Joe Biden.
However, the garden has historically functioned as a signature showcase of power used by presidents for decades, a point that FLOTUS has used to justify its renovation.
“The White House and the Rose Garden have always stood as a symbol of our strength, resilience and continuity,” Ms Trump said on Monday.
The renovations will be supported by the National Park Service and funded by private donations and are said to have been in the works for a year, The New York Times reported.
It will also return the rose garden to its original 1962 blueprint in an attempted renewal of the design first implemented by Rachel Lambert “Bunny” Mellon during the Kennedy Administration, the White House said.
Historians have noted the significance of this historical design and predicted that the project may be a way for Ms Trump to instil her legacy as the 2020 presidential election, and possibly the end to her time as first lady, draws nearer.
“One reading of this project is that maybe Ms Trump is sensing that she has a relatively brief time in the White House,” Katherine Jellison, a professor at Ohio University who studies first ladies, told The Times.
“And if she’s going to make her mark in the way Jackie Kennedy did in her brief time, a project of this sort would be appropriate.”
The project comes as the country sees record levels of unemployment across the nation with approximately 32 million people receiving unemployment assistance in the US, according to the Labour department.
Last week, unemployment claims increased for the first time since the pandemic started in March, with some 1.4m people submitting for assistance.
Claims rise as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage throughout the country, with over four million confirmed cases across the US and 147,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University.
Nonetheless, Ms Trump insisted that the restoration will be beneficial in exemplifying the country’s “dedication to American ideals”.
“Preserving the history and beauty of the White House and its grounds is a testament to our nation’s commitment to the care of this landscape and our dedication to American ideals, safeguarding them for our children and their children for generations to come,” she said.