Following significant backlash, former President Barack Obama has decided at the last minute to curtail plans for a massive 60th birthday celebration.
The party, scheduled to take place Saturday at the Obamas' oceanside mansion in Martha's Vineyard, was to include nearly 500 guests and more than 200 staff. But after news broke of the bash over the weekend, critics lambasted the former president for hosting a massive party amid a surge in coronavirus infections.
Now, citing the spread of the Delta variant, the Obamas have decided to scale down the party to include just family and close friends.
According to the New York Times, "the party plans had been months in the making and many invitees had already arrived on Martha's Vineyard" when Obama belatedly announced news of its cancellation.
"Due to the new spread of the Delta variant over the past week, the president and Mrs. Obama have decided to significantly scale back the event to include only family and close friends," the former president's spokesperson, Hannah Hankins, said in a statement. "President Obama is appreciative of others sending their birthday wishes from afar and looks forward to seeing people soon."
Hundreds of former Obama administration officials and Hollywood bigwigs were slated to attend the party before its downsizing. The New York Post reported that George Clooney, Steven Spielberg, and Oprah Winfrey were expected to attend.
Party planners reportedly followed public health guidelines in advance of the celebration. The bash was to be held outside at the property and the Obamas had asked guests to be vaccinated. There was even slated to be a "COVID coordinator" on the premises to ensure protocols were followed.
But as the Delta variant has surged in recent weeks, public health experts responded by reversing masking guidance for vaccinated individuals and warning against large gatherings. All of a sudden, the public image of a massive party filled with celebrities, Democratic donors, and left-wing politicos didn't look so good.
"They've been concerned about the virus from the beginning, asking invited guests if they had been vaccinated, requesting that they get a test proximate to the event," David Axelrod, a former top Obama adviser, said, according to the Times. "But when this was planned, the situation was quite different. So they responded to the changing circumstances."
The Obamas and their allies have maintained that the party plans were altered over health concerns. Though it should be noted that plans didn't officially change until after the public backlash.