A glowing description of President Donald Trump's Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago — calling it the "winter White House" — was posted on State Department websites, bringing criticism from ethics watchdogs and Democrats.
The item, published ahead of an early April meeting with China's president at the Palm Beach club, recounted the club's history and Trump's purchase and gilded redecoration of the property where he's spent half his weekends since taking office.
Under the heading "A Dream Deferred" — drawing on a famous line from the Langston Hughes poem "Harlem" — it said the original socialite owner wanted Mar-a-Lago to be a retreat for American presidents but notes it didn't happen until Trump won the election.
The text appeared on the website for Share America, a State Department platform intended to "spark discussion and debate on important topics;" the website for the U.S. Embassy in the United Kingdom and the Facebook page for the U.S. Embassy in Albania.
Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was among those taking to Twitter to question whether the posts violated government ethics rules.
The State Department initially declined to comment on the posts, but later unpublished them and said, "The intention of the article was to inform the public about where the President has been hosting world leaders.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."
Three ethics watchdogs who reviewed the posts before they were taken down told NBC News they are troubling.
"They represent violations of a federal ethics regulation which prohibits the use of public office to endorse a product or enterprise," said Kathleen Clark, a professor at Washington University Law.
"Calling it the 'winter White House' appears to suggest that Mar-a-Lago has an official governmental role, which would appear to provide a governmental endorsement."