The US State Department has taken down an article about President Donald Trump's luxury Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida after it sparked fierce criticism from ethics watchdogs, Democrats and social media users. The article on Share America, a website run by the State Department, was initially posted in early April and described the for-profit resort as the "winter White House".
It also detailed the history and ornate decor and exterior, as well as "style and taste" of the Palm Beach estate, purchased by Trump in 1985 and is owned by the Trump Organization. The resort continues to be a private club with a membership fee of $200,000 – up from $100,000 prior to Trump's election.
The post noted that its founder, socialite and cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, "spared no expense" when constructing the opulent 114-room resort back in 1927. She later willed the site to the US government in 1973.
"Post's dream of a winter White House came true with Trump's election in 2016," the now-deleted post read.
"Trump is not the first president to have access to Mar-a-Lago as a Florida retreat, but he is the first one to use it," it continued. "By visiting this 'winter White House', Trump is belatedly fulfilling the dream of Mar-a-Lago's original owner and designer."
It also noted that Trump's Florida estate "has become well-known as the president frequently travels there to work or host foreign leaders".
Multiple US embassies around the world shared the article via their social media pages. A condensed version of the article was shared on the website of the US Embassy in the UK.
A link to the article was still on the Albanian embassy's Facebook page at the time of publication. The State Department's bureau of Economic and Business Affairs also promoted the post on Facebook.
The article was taken down on Monday (24 April) and replaced with a brief statement issued by the State Department.
"The intention of the article was to inform the public about where the President has been hosting world leaders. We regret any misperception and have removed the post",
The ShareAmerica website, which is part of the State Department's Bureau of International Information Programs, is described as a "platform for sharing compelling stories and images that spark discussion and debate on important topics like democracy, freedom of expression, innovation, entrepreneurship, education, and the role of civil society".
The post attracted fierce criticism online and the federal government was accused of promoting Trump's private resort. It also raised serious concerns from ethics experts over potential conflicts of interest.
Critics have continued to slam President Trump's trips to Mar-a-Lago over the significant cost to taxpayers, as well as his handling of sensitive national security information at the resort. The president has spent seven weekends at the estate since taking office. He has hosted both Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping there.
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden tweeted: "Yes, I am curious @StateDept. Why are taxpayer [dollars] promoting the President's private country club."