First lady’s announcement sparked a slew of Twitter responses including a terse ‘282,345’ from Washington DC journalist David Corn.
Melania Trump drew backlash on Monday after announcing that a new tennis pavilion is set to be unveiled on the south grounds of the White House, as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to surge across the country.
“It is my hope that this private space will function as both a place of leisure and gathering for future first families,” the first lady said in a written statement on Monday, which came just weeks before the Trump family turns the White House over to his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, who handily won the 2020 presidential election.
The first lady went on to thank the “talented craftsmen” who worked on the project and the “generous supporters of the White House”.
“282,345,” David Corn, Mother Jones’ DC bureau chief, noted in a terse response, in reference to the number of people who have died in the US due to coronavirus.
Molly Jong-Fast, editor-at-large for the Daily Beast, echoed the sarcastic analysis of others who joked that the first lady had “her finger on the pulse of America”. She tweeted: “Oh good, those people in their ICU beds will feel so much better knowing that [Trump] has finished her tennis pavilion.”
A photo of the newly unveiled structure included the colonnade, parapet wall and fanlight windows meant to tie the new building to the look and feel of the White House.
In a release, Melania Trump’s office revealed it had been inspired by the architecture of its east and west wings. Former president Barack Obama had previously turned the tennis court into one suitable for basketball.
Planning for the project began in early 2018, followed by approval in June 2019 by the commission of fine arts and the national capital planning commission. Construction was in partnership with the trust for the National Mall and the National Park Service.
Trump helped break ground for the project in October 2019, which was funded by private donations. However, the White House did not disclose the cost.
The pavilion’s unveiling isn’t the first time the building generated controversy. Earlier this year the first lady received a firestorm of criticism for tweeting photos of herself wearing a hard hat while reviewing the structure’s blueprints as the coronavirus pandemic began to wreck havoc across the country.
In response, Trump tweeted encouraging “everyone who chooses to be negative & question [her] work at the White House to take time and contribute something good & productive in their own communities”.
Completion of the tennis pavilion follows the first lady’s redesign of the White House rose garden earlier this year.
Biden is set to take the oath of office as the nation’s 46th president on 20 January. From then, he will have the power to uproot any or all of Trump’s design should he choose.