Democracy Dies in Darkness

Rampage | Opinion

A video Steven Mnuchin doesn’t want you to see

By Catherine Rampell

March 1, 2018 at 11:38 AM

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Protesters heckled Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a speaking event on Feb. 26 at UCLA. (Jacob Woocher)

On Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin participated in a discussion at the University of California at Los Angeles with “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal. The event was open to the public, and some of the attendees heckled and hissed at him. Demonstrators outside dressed up as Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, serving cake.

As the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, Mnuchin subsequently asked the university not to post its official video or audio. UCLA spokeswoman Peggy McInerny emailed the Journal that Mnuchin “has retracted his permission for the Burkle Center to post its video and podcast of yesterday’s event on its website, so we are unable to share either recording with you.”

This is an interesting move for a Cabinet member who (at least occasionally) claims to value transparency, given that this event was — once again — open to the public.

Because it was open to the public, however, some of the other people present also captured video. One sent me a short clip from the event, showing a sixth-grader asking the secretary a tough question about taxes. Here it is:

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A sixth grader questioned Secretary Steven Mnuchin about the tax plan at a speaking event on Feb. 26 at the University of California Los Angeles. (Obtained by The Washington Post)

As you can hear, the audience hissed and interjected throughout. The person who sent this video, who wishes to remain anonymous, also shared these observations via email:

The hissing was surprisingly uncomfortable but a great example of subtle, navigable protest – the event was billed as an opp to hear a point of view and to engage – which was my experience.
It was very embarrassing for the Secretary.  It sent a message that even though we are in bel air, these are NOT your people.  He tried hard to engage the room (show of hands, how many of you like higher wages, etc). Room was not having it.

At one point an attendee was physically picked up and removed by police, as you can see in this footage shared on Twitter by a reporter at the local ABC affiliate:

Update #1: “Marketplace” has posted audio of the event (including the Q&A; with the audience at the end). Scroll to the bottom of the page, below the edited transcript of the discussion with Ryssdal, to listen.

Update #2: Thanks to readers sending me video. (Email me if you have more.) Here’s one clip posted on YouTube, during which Mnuchin suggested that audience members probably just don’t like the tax bill because they aren’t earning paychecks yet.

Here’s Mnuchin saying Ryssdal has a “bias” because Ryssdal asked about how the administration came up with its 3 percent GDP growth estimates. Footage courtesy of Mark Gelhaus:

And Mnuchin’s technically not in this one, but, uh, here’s a video of Marie Antoinette going through security.

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Video shoes a person dressed as Marie Antoinette being checked by security before entering a discussion at the University of California at Los Angeles with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Feb. 26. (Obtained by The Washington post)

Update #3 (March 9, 9:49 p.m.): UCLA has just posted video of the event on its website. I asked UCLA what changed between last week — when I (like the Journal) was told that the school could not share the video because Mnuchin had withdrawn permission — and this evening. The response from university spokesman Tod Tamberg:

UCLA received consent from the U.S. Treasury Department on March 9, 2018, to post the full video of Secretary Mnuchin’s recent presentation at UCLA to the Burkle Center’s website[…]

As for why, I’ll refer you to the Treasury Department for the answer to that question.

I have asked Treasury for comment about why it retracted permission in the first place, and why it then reversed itself again today. I will update this post when I receive a response.

Update #4 (March 11, 2:30 p.m.): After several people filed California Public Records Act requests for the video, UCLA determined as early as Thursday that it was legally required to share the footage. Treasury then gave its “consent” for publication on Friday, after this determination was made. More details here.


Catherine Rampell is an opinion columnist at The Washington Post. She frequently covers economics, public policy, politics and culture, with a special emphasis on data-driven journalism. Before joining The Post, she wrote about economics and theater for the New York Times.

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Rampage | Opinion

A video Steven Mnuchin doesn’t want you to see

By Catherine Rampell

March 1, 2018 at 11:38 AM

Watch more!
Protesters heckled Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a speaking event on Feb. 26 at UCLA. (Jacob Woocher)

On Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin participated in a discussion at the University of California at Los Angeles with “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal. The event was open to the public, and some of the attendees heckled and hissed at him. Demonstrators outside dressed up as Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, serving cake.

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