For all US president Donald Trump’s populist bluster, his administration is one of the wealthiest ever. Last week Louise Linton, the Scottish wife of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, made headlines after she was involved in a row on social media website Instagram. Linton “posted a photograph of herself disembarking” from a military jet, says Maggie Haberman in The New York Times, then “added hashtags for various pieces of her expensive wardrobe”. When a user commented, “glad we could pay for your getaway”, Linton “belittled the woman… for having less money than she does”, and retorted: “I’m pretty sure we paid more taxes toward our day ‘trip’ than you did”.
While Mnuchin agreed to pay $10,000 to compensate the taxpayer for his wife’s use of the jet, political watchdog organisation Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is sceptical about the entire trip. The nominal purpose was to check security at the US Bullion Depository, and to meet Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but the group claims the real aim was to watch the solar eclipse from the roof of Fort Knox, “atop $200bn-worth of gold”, says Mythili Sampathkumar in The Independent. After all, “Mnuchin is the first Treasury Secretary to visit Fort Knox in nearly 70 years”. Yet it’s perhaps unfair to single Linton out. Many of Team Trump seem to believe that nothing is out of bounds “when it comes to promoting one’s personal brand”, says Jia Tolentino in The New Yorker. “Ivanka Trump’s Instagram is full of similar photos: Ivanka and her husband, holding hands, as they stride across electric-green grass at the G-20 summit; her kids ascending the crimson staircase of Air Force One.” Overall, “there is an undercurrent of White-House-as-life-style-blog-prop”. Indeed, “if Linton hadn’t provided quite a bit of additional information… the acquisitive smugness of her photo might have just sat there”.
This isn’t Linton’s first brush with controversy though. Before her “bizarre Instagram exchange” and “lavish June wedding” she wrote a memoir about a gap year she spent in Zambia in the late 1990s, says Samantha Schmidt in The Washington Post. The self-published book claimed that she had been “a ‘central character’ in the ‘horror story’ of the Congolese war”. Critics accused her of being “delusional” and described the book as “the dumbest, most egregious piece of writing on Africa of the 21st century”. She was forced to remove the book from sale and “give the profits to charity”.
Linton’s putative literary and diplomatic careers are not the only things in tatters. Any hopes of a fashion career are dead too. Despite name checking her designer rags (worth an estimated $15,000), the backlash saw a “flow of luxury brands formally dissociating themselves” from her, says The Guardian’s Marina Hyde. Representatives of Tom Ford stated that “they are not affiliated with her and have not sent her any of their products”, while Valentino has said that “Louise Linton did not receive any gifted merchandise, compensation or loans”. So “the call from Anna Wintour for which Louise was doubtless hoping now looks slightly less likely”