Barack Obama ‘snubs Waldorf Astoria over China spying fears’
Barack Obama breaks presidential tradition by choosing not to stay at Chinese-owned Waldorf Astoria in New York over fears hotel could be bugged, according to reports
By Barney Henderson, New York
Barack Obama has reportedly chosen not to stay at the Waldorf Astoria on a trip to New York this weekend because the hotel, which was sold to a Chinese businessman last year, could be bugged.
Since the days of Herbert Hoover, who ran the country from 1929 until 1933, US presidents have traditionally stayed in the Waldorf Astoria.
However, Mr Obama, who is in New York this weekend to attend a Democratic fundraiser on Friday evening and a Broadway show on Saturday with his daughters Malia and Sasha, will be staying at Millennium’s ONE UN New York hotel.
Officials feared that the Waldorf Astoria, which was bought for just under $2 billion (£1.24 bn) by the Beijing-based Anbang Insurance Group, headed by the grandson of the architect of modern China, could be bugged, the New York Post reported.
The White House did not respond to the newspaper for comment.
Mr Obama will reportedly attend a fundraising dinner at the Upper East Side home of George Logothetis, a British billionaire shipping magnate. On Saturday, the president and his daughters are expected to watch the hit hip-hop musical Hamilton on the recommendation of his wife Michelle, who has already seen it.
A Waldorf Astoria New York spokesman said: “It is always a privilege to host the president of the United States and we hope to have the occasion to welcome him back to the Waldorf Astoria New York when the opportunity presents itself.”
Wu Xiaohui, head of Anbang Insurance Group that now owns the Waldorf, is married to the granddaughter of Deng Xiaoping, the former Communist guerrilla who served as China’s paramount leader from the late 1970s until his death in 1997.
Deng is widely credited for opening China up to the rest of the world economically after decades of Communist isolation.
The Waldorf Astoria had been owned by the Hilton family for 65 years, and as part of the terms of the sale, the Hilton Group will continue to run the hotel for at least another century.
The current art deco building on Park Avenue is the second incarnation of the famous hotel, which was originally built on 5th Avenue in 1893 on the site of a mansion owned by millionaire William Waldorf Astoria.