WASHINGTON (AFP) - The wife of US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was forced to apologise on Tuesday (Aug 22) after she posted an Instagram photo and comments that were slammed as tone deaf and elitist.
Louise Linton, 36, who is also a Scottish actress, posted a photo to the social network on Monday night that showed her descending with Mnuchin from an official US government plane. She tagged her designer clothing and accessories, including Tom Ford sunglasses, an Hermes scarf and Valentino heels.
The husband and wife had just returned from a trip to Kentucky, where Mnuchin addressed the Louisville Chamber of Commerce and visited the US Bullion Depository at Fort Knox.
The Commerce Department estimates that about 18.5 per cent of Kentuckians live in poverty.
A user, jennimiller29, left a comment accusing Linton of freeloading on the taxpayer's dime: "Glad we could pay for your little getaway. #deplorable."
Linton was apparently unable to resist a lengthy rebuttal: "Aw!!! Did you think this was a personal trip?! Adorable!" she wrote. "Do you think the US govt paid for our honeymoon or personal travel?! Lololol."
Linton also said that by virtue of their wealth, she and Mnuchin contributed more to society than jennimiller29.
"Have you given more to the economy than me and my husband? Either as an individual earner in taxes OR in self sacrifice to your country?" Linton wrote.
"Pretty sure the amount we sacrifice per year is a lot more than you'd be willing to sacrifice if the choice was yours."
"You're adorably out of touch."
By Tuesday morning, Linton's post had reportedly been removed from her Instagram account, which was no longer publicly accessible.
She also issued an apology through her publicist later in the day.
"I apologise for my post on social media yesterday as well as my response. It was inappropriate and highly insensitive," Linton said in a statement obtained by CNN.
A Treasury Department spokesman told AFP the couple were reimbursing the federal government for Linton's travel.
"She receives no compensation for the products she mentions," the spokesman added.
A former Goldman Sachs executive, Hollywood producer and banker, Mnuchin is a prominently wealthy member of the Trump administration, one of the richest in recent memory.
Fortune magazine estimates Mnuchin's net worth is as high as US$500 million (S$680 million).
During Senate confirmation, he faced awkward questions about previously undisclosed offshore investment firms and real estate holdings of about US$100 million.
Linton posed earlier this year for the magazine Town and Country, exhibiting the lavish diamond and pearl jewellery she wore at her June wedding to Mnuchin.
The other Instagram user, identified by The New York Times as Jenni Miller, a 45-year-old mother of three from Oregon, told the paper Linton had gone on a "rant" to make herself appear "smarter, better, richer - all those things".
"If she hadn't made her account private, I would have written back with a very snide Marie Antoinette joke," Miller said.