It’s well known that America’s current Secretary Of The Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, is a former Hollywood insider and film producer. Or not-so-former, given that he still has a movie or two in theaters—namely, Lego Batman and Fist Fight—and a few more, including Lego Ninjago, on the way. Of course, various ethics rules, like the ones that dinged Kellyanne Conway for promoting Ivanka Trump’s fashion line last month, exist to stop Mnuchin from using his influence and power to encourage people to see his movies. But none of those dusty old rules can stand in the way of a reporter straight-up asking Mnuchin what’s good in theaters right now, because your old pal Steve’s not going to bullshit you about the hottest ticket in town.
“Well, I’m not allowed to promote anything that I’m involved in,” Mnuchin told journalists at a press conference today, invoking the famed “I Told You, So Now You Can’t Yell At Me” clause implied in most White House ethics laws. “So I just want to have the legal disclosure that you’ve asked me the question and I am not promoting any product. But you should send all your kids to Lego Batman.”
Mnuchin was actually on quite a roll today, weighing in on movies like The Wolf Of Wall Street and The Big Short—both “complete misrepresentations” of the financial system, apparently—and offering up the assessment that President Donald Trump has “perfect genes” and is basically an unstoppable fitness monster now that he’s got a White House kitchen to keep him from gorging on McDonald’s and KFC all the time.
Ethics watchdogs have already pointed out that, prefaced with a disclaimer or not, it’s still illegal for Mnuchin to encourage anybody to see a movie he has a financial stake in. The Treasury Department defended his comments, though, saying, “As his statement reflects, the Secretary clearly recognized that he generally may not promote private interests and specifically gave the legal disclosure that he was not promoting a movie, but answering a question he was asked directly.” The department failed to add as a follow-up, “also, at least he wasn’t telling people to go see Fist Fight.”