Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin did what just about anyone would do when presented with a newly minted sheet of American currency bearing their name and signature on Wednesday: He posed for a photo.
Coming in the midst of tax-overhaul plans by President Trump and congressional Republicans that nonpartisan analysts say would disproportionately benefit corporations and wealthy individuals, among others, the photo of Mnuchin and wife Louise Linton holding up the sheet of new $1 bills became an instant meme and drew wide mockery around the Internet.
The photo was snapped Wednesday by Jacquelyn Martin, a photographer for the Associated Press, as Mnuchin and Linton, along with U.S. Treasurer Jovita Carranza, toured the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington. The new $1 bills, with Mnuchin and Carranza's signatures, are expected to go into circulation in December. The signatures of Treasury secretaries have appeared on U.S. currency for more than a century, and Mnuchin’s signature is more legible than that of his predecessor Jack Lew, the AP noted.
For many, there was something comical about the picture of the couple, no strangers to accusations of flaunting their wealth and privilege. Mnuchin holds the sheet on both sides, a smile on his face. His wife stands behind him, her hand on the sheet’s corner.
“Only way this could be worse would be if Linton and Mnuchin were lighting cigars with flaming dollar bills,” wrote the writer James Surowiecki.
“Just a friendly reminder that the GOP wants to raise taxes on the middle class & take health insurance away from millions of Americans so people like Louise Linton and Steven Mnuchin can get a tax cut,” wrote another.
Many said the optics of the photograph lent the two the aura of a pair of Hollywood villains. Perhaps it was Linton’s sharp stare and long black gloves. Clad in all black, Linton clasped the sheet of money the way a royal might hold her hand to be kissed.
“Why do Treasury Sec Mnuchin and his wife insist on posing for photos that make them look like Bond villains?” wrote CNBC reporter Christina Wilkie.
The Fox News website described the images as a “big money photo op.”
It is not the first photo of Mnuchin, a former banker and Hollywood producer, and Linton, an actress, to raise eyebrows. A post Linton made on Instagram over the summer, in which she tagged many of the luxury fashion brands she wore on the trip alongside a photo of her and Mnuchin descending the steps of a government plane, drew harsh criticism. Linton then criticized a commenter who questioned why she had promoted the brands, by boasting about her wealth.
“Have you given more to the economy than me and my husband?” she wrote on a now-deleted Instagram post.
A memoir that Linton self-published about a six-month stint in living in Zambia in 1999 was widely denounced for being littered with inaccuracies, and being “falsified,” according to the Zambian High Commission in London.
Mnuchin has also drawn scrutiny for his use of government aircraft to travel.