US first lady Melania Trump has copped a backlash online after celebrating the completion of a new tennis pavilion at the White House.
The first lady's critics have suggested the announcement is out of touch, given the worsening state of America's coronavirus epidemic.
The project, completed just weeks before the Trumps vacate the White House, included sprucing up an existing tennis court and children's garden, in addition to building a pavilion to replace a smaller structure on the south grounds.
The first lady's office said on Monday (Tuesday NZT) that the pavilion's design was inspired by the architectural style of the White House, especially the East and West Wings.
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.
Melania Trump helped break ground for the project in October 2019. Construction was in partnership with the Trust for the National Mall and the National Park Service. The new building was funded by private donations. The White House did not disclose the cost.
Earlier this year, as the coronavirus pandemic began to take hold in the US, the first lady tweeted photos of herself wearing a hard hat while reviewing blueprints for the pavilion.
Her critics lashed out, with some calling the photos insensitive during the coronavirus scare. She pushed back in a follow-up tweet encouraging "everyone who chooses to be negative & question my work at the @WhiteHouse to take time and contribute something good & productive in their own communities".
In a written statement on Monday, the first lady thanked the "talented craftsmen" who worked on the project and the "generous supporters of the White House".
"It is my hope that this private space will function as both a place of leisure and gathering for future First Families," she said.
Completion of the tennis pavilion follows the first lady's redesign of the White House Rose Garden earlier this year.
- With AP