President Obama is not going to stay in the historic Waldorf Astoria hotel during his upcoming trip to New York, most likely because of the building’s new Chinese owners.
Every president since Franklin Roosevelt has stayed at the Waldorf. The Presidential Suite has been specially outfitted to serve the needs of a visiting Commander-in-Chief, and has various souvenirs from past presidents, such as a desk from Dwight D. Eisenhower and a rocking chair from John F. Kennedy.
In the past, the Waldorf has been Obama’s hotel of choice in New York. Now, however, he is making different plans. During his upcoming trip to New York for the United Nations General Assembly President Obama will be staying at a different hotel.
In 2014, a Chinese company named the Anbang Insurance Group bought the Waldorf from Hilton for nearly $2 billion.
After the recent breach of the federal Office of Personnel Management by hackers, suspected to be Chinese, there has been a dampening of relations between the U.S. and China.
Although Obama has not given a specific reason for choosing to stay elsewhere, at least one U.S. official said that the move was born out of fears that the Chinese could install surveillance gear in the Presidential Suite and throughout the hotel.
Diplomats from the U.S. Department of State are also going to be avoiding the Waldorf for this year’s U.N. General Assembly.
Instead, they will stay in the nearby New York Palace Hotel.
Although the move to the New York Palace has not been officially announced, anonymous sources have confirmed to several media outlets that the change would be made for this year’s General Assembly.
The State Department routinely warns U.S. diplomats in China of surveillance in hotels, and they may fear the Waldorf is now under similar surveillance from Chinese espionage forces.
Last year, U.S. security officials were nervous that the deal to buy and renovate the Waldorf would lead to increased risks, and apparently decided that prudence dictated moving State Department employees to another hotel in New York.
“It was always an honor and a privilege to host representatives of the U.S. Department of State and we hope to have occasion to welcome them back to the Waldorf Astoria when the opportunity presents itself,” a statement a spokesman for the Waldorf gave to the press said.