Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin finally publicly responded to an image that’s been lighting up the internet. Namely, the mega-viral photo of Mnuchin, and his wife Louise Linton, grinning as they hold up a sheet of freshly minted $1 bills.
The picture earned some criticism from political progressives, perturbed by the billionaire couple’s tone-deaf behavior, and it earned some mockery, too.
The social media reaction to the photo saw Mnuchin and Linton repeatedly likened to privileged, avaricious robber-barons, or, to draw a more specific pop-culture parallel, scheming Bond villains. When Fox News’ Chris Wallace asked him about the photo, however, Mnuchin made it clear that he took the latter comparison as a compliment.
“I heard that, I never thought I’d be quoted as looking like villains from the James Bond,” Mnuchin said in an appearance on Fox News Sunday. “I guess I should take that as a compliment that I look like a villain in a great, successful James Bond movie.”
Mnuchin explained that he was excited to see his signature on the money, so he and Linton visited the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to check out the first batch. Every dollar bill printed includes the signature of the treasury secretary, and now, Mnuchin’s are hitting the market.
“I didn’t realize that the pictures were public and going on the internet and viral,” he continued. “But people have the right to do that, people can express what they want. That’s the great thing about social media today. People can say and communicate what they want.”
Linton is also no stranger to criticism for a lack of tact and self-awareness, either. In August, she set off controversy by mocking one of her critics on Instagram, delivering an almost pitch-perfect self-parody of an out-of-touch billionaire.
Mnuchin, on the other hand, was a hedge fund manager and film producer prior to becoming treasury secretary, and he was formerly the CEO and chairman of OneWest Bank. In the aftermath of the 2007 global financial collapse, Mnuchin and OneWest came under scrutiny for aggressive foreclosure practices, with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren noting the bank’s “reputation as a foreclosure machine.” While that’s admittedly less flashy than holding up a sheet of crisp dollar bills with a grin on one’s face, it certainly doesn’t help with a villainous image.