WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST) - US 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: he posed for a photo.
Coming in the midst of tax-reform plans by US President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans that nonpartisan analysts say would disproportionately benefit corporations and wealthy individuals, among others, the photo of Mr Mnuchin and wife Louise Linton holding up the sheet of new US$1 bills became an instant meme and drew wide mockery around the Internet.
The photo was snapped on Wednesday (Nov 15) as Mr Mnuchin and Ms Linton, along with US Treasurer Jovita Carranza, toured the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington.
The new US$1 bills, with Mr Mnuchin and Ms Carranza's signatures, are expected to go into circulation in December. The signatures of Treasury secretaries have appeared on US currency for more than a century, and Mr Mnuchin's signature is more legible than his predecessor Jacob Lew, the Associated Press noted.
For many, there was something comical about the picture of the couple, no strangers to criticism of flaunting their wealth and privilege. Mr Mnuchin holds the sheet on both sides, a smile on his face. His wife is standing 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 that the optics of the photograph lent the two the aura of a pair of Hollywood villains. Perhaps it was Ms Linton's sharp stare and long black gloves. Clad in all black, she 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 Mr Mnuchin, a former banker and Hollywood producer and Ms Linton, an actress, to raise eyebrows. A post ms Linton made on Instagram over the summer, in which she tagged many of the luxury fashion brands she wore on the trip alongside of photo of her and Mr Mnuchin descending the steps of a government plane, drew harsh criticism.
Ms Linton then criticised 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 she 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.
Mr Mnuchin has also drawn scrutiny for his use of government aircraft to travel.