In early 2017, the State Department dropped some serious money preparing a Manhattan residence for occupation by ambassadors. The penthouse had never been lived in by government officials before, so it's understandable that things would need to be prepared. Having said all that, there is one preparation expense that had people raising their eyebrows - reportedly, even though the department was under budget cuts - they spent almost $53k on ... curtains. The New York Times is reporting that the curtains themselves cost $29.9k, and the hardware and motors required to open and close the curtains cost another $22,801.
Traditionally, ambassadors stayed at the Waldorf Astoria hotel, but that had to be changed due to security concerns when the hotel was purchased by a Chinese insurance company. In the rush to find a secure location, the State Department picked up a 6,000 square foot penthouse unit that was listed at 58k per month. Preparing the unit for occupation by government officials would obviously require some investing, and we understand privacy and security are important, but since the department was supposed to be under a budget cut during this time, it was shocking to many people to see such a large amount spent on curtains.
Once the unit was ready, the first ambassador was able to take residence - Nikki Haley. Her reps have explained to the public that Ms. Haley had no say in the purchase and installation of the curtains, or any other decor decisions regarding the unit. The government planned and approved those decisions in 2016 and continued to prepare the unit through early 2017. Ms. Haley merely occupied the unit when it was ready, just like she would have at a hotel room. Initially, stories framed the situation as though Nikki Haley had some say in the curtains purchase - but many publications are now apologizing for leaving people with that impression.
The New York Times released the following editor's note at the beginning of an article:
An earlier version of this article and headline created an unfair impression about who was responsible for the purchase in question. While Nikki R. Haley is the current ambassador to the United Nations, the decision on leasing the ambassador's residence and purchasing the curtains was made during the Obama administration, according to current and former officials. The article should not have focused on Ms. Haley, nor should a picture of her have been used. The article and headline have now been edited to reflect those concerns, and the picture has been removed.
Still, Twitter has questions - both about the article and the curtains.