The internet's Trump critics had thoughts about the first lady's announcement

By Sean Neumann
Updated July 28, 2020 01:50 PM
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White House Rose Garden
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Melania Trump has a new White House project, she announced Monday.

(Almost inevitably, the internet had thoughts.)

The first lady, 50, unveiled plans to renovate the historic Rose Garden, which presidents have long used as a backdrop for important speeches and White House ceremonies.

Trump said the move is an “act of expressing hope and optimism for the future,” according to a message she delivered Monday morning to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House.

The New York Times first reported the story and said the first lady told the committee that “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.”

The first lady's office called the project a "significant renewal" of the Rose Garden.

“The very act of planting a garden involves hard work and hope in the possibility of a bright future,” Trump said in a statement. “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.”

The Times reports the project will make it easier for networks to televise speeches in the Rose Garden, with upgrades to the lawn's electrical set up. The renovation will also create a new walkway as well as new landscaping and drainage improvements.

Renovations began Monday, according to Stephanie Grisham, the first lady's chief of staff.

A report on the planning process says discussions about renovating the garden began in December before being finalized this month. It also indicates the renovation process will likely take a couple of weeks to complete.

First Lady Melania Trump
OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty

Soon after the announcement, Twitter lit up with viral jabs at the first lady for what Trump critics saw as a tone-deaf move amid the novel coronavirus pandemic — and resulting economic damage — as well as national unrest over racial injustice.

"I wonder if Marie Antoinette redid the gardens at Versailles when the revolution was brewing," one user tweeted.

Another chimed in: "Comparing Melania to Marie Antoinette is unfair to Marie Antoinette." (Similar such posts racked up thousands of retweets and likes.)

The first lady's office said the Rose Garden redesign will be aimed at returning the garden more to its original 1962 design, by Rachel Lambert “Bunny” Mellon, who crafted the area during the Kennedy administration.

The National Parks Service has taken charge of the garden's upkeep since 1933 and will support the renovations, which the Times reports are being funded through private donors.

In a tweet Monday, the first lady called the Rose Garden an "iconic space," adding that her revamp is designed to "preserve its history & beauty for generations to come."

White House Rose Garden
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White House Rose Garden
Getty

The Rose Garden typically hosts ceremonies like when sports teams visit the White House to celebrate championships, events held to sign peace declarations, more informal news conferences — and even marriages. (That's where President Richard Nixon's daughter Tricia got married in 1971.)

Amid the pandemic and widespread protests against police brutality and racism this year, however, the Rose Garden has most often been the site of contentious press appearances by Donald Trump.

In a June 1 speech, the president, 74, declared himself the "president of law and order" with the Rose Garden as a backdrop as federal officers cleared largely peaceful protesters from outside the White House.