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Petition calls for Jill Biden to undo Melania Trump’s changes to White House Rose Garden

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Members of the left have launched a misinformation-laden Change.org petition calling for first lady Jill Biden to reverse the Rose Garden renovation that was completed last year by then-first lady Melania Trump.

In the petition, which as of Thursday had slightly over 40,000 signers, the suggestion is made that the Rose Garden is the invention of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

“In 1961 President and Mrs. Kennedy had just returned from a state visit to France, followed by stops in England and Austria. The President had noted that the White House had no garden equal in quality or attractiveness to the gardens that he had seen and in which he had been entertained in Europe. There he had recognized the importance of gardens surrounding an official residence and their appeal to the sensibilities of all people,” the petition reads.

It’s a direct quote from a write-up by the White House Historical Association, except that it doesn’t mention that the Kennedys didn’t create the Rose Garden — they simply renovated it. The original design was conceived by former first lady Edith Roosevelt decades earlier.

“Prior to 1902, there were extensive stables, housing horses and coaches, located on the grounds of the present-day Oval Office, Cabinet Room, and Rose Garden. During the 1902 Roosevelt renovation, First Lady Edith Roosevelt insisted on a proper colonial garden to help replace the conservatory rose house that had stood here,” according to the White House Museum.

“To honor Jacqueline Kennedy’s contributions to the White House and its grounds, her immediate successor, First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, renamed the East Garden as the ‘Jacqueline Kennedy Garden’ during a ceremony on 22 April 1965,” the petition continues.

The relevancy of this part of the petition is unclear, given as the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden is separate from the Rose Garden and remained untouched by Trump.

“In 2019, Melania Trump had the cherry trees, a gift from Japan, removed as well as the rest of the foliage and replaced with a boring tribute to herself. Jackie’s legacy was ripped away from Americans who remembered all that the Kennedy’s meant to us. We want Jill Biden and Doug Emhoff to take this on and restore the Rose Garden to Jackie’s original design,” the petition concludes.

Again, the Rose Garden is not the invention of Kennedy, not that what she did with the Rose Garden was wrong. According to Marta McDowell, an expert on gardening history, it’s a tradition for first ladies to revamp the garden.

“Every administration makes tweaks,” the Los Angeles Times pithily wrote in summary after an interview with McDowell last August.

Plus, Trump barely changed anything, according to McDowell.

“It looks very much the same. It’s this little diamond shape with a zigzag little parterre and it’s infilled with plants — many of which are roses,” she told the Times.

 

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A post shared by First Lady Melania Trump (@flotus) on

 

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A post shared by First Lady Melania Trump (@flotus) on

Speaking last August with Snopes, McDowell also pushed back on the lies that Trump had “ruined” the garden by ripping out its trees and roses.

“It’s true that the garden designed and planted during the Kennedy administration contained crab apple trees. But the trees removed in the renovation unveiled in August 2020 were not the same trees as the ones originally planted in the garden,” Snopes reported.

“And it’s not true that the garden contained roses planted by every first lady since 1913. … McDowell … told us in a phone interview that the crab apple trees have been replaced three times since the original planting in the 1960s, and the tree type changed from one called Katherine to another called Spring Snow,” its report continued.

In a statement to Snopes, McDowell sounded a bit exasperated by the criticisms being directed at Trump.

“Is the garden outside your back door the same as it was 60 years ago? That’s what people are suggesting,” she said.

Fair point, no? Trump’s renovation nevertheless provoked a whirlwind of backlash and hate — genuine, unrepentant hate, much of it outright xenophobic.

In one particularly disturbing screed, known literal mainstream media figure Kurt Eichenwald tweeted that because Trump “is a foreigner … [s]he has no right to wreck our history.” He went on to disparage her as a “tasteless former Slovenian model” who was “only granted citizenship 14 years ago.”

He wasn’t alone in his bigotry. Plenty of random leftists joined the hate fest by deriding Trump as an “illegal immigrant” and telling her to “go back where you came from.”

It’s not clear if the people signing the Change.org petition are the same ones who gleefully reveled in xenophobic hate against Trump last year.

Vivek Saxena

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