This administration is filled with characters so basic and predictable that a responsible editor giving notes on 2017: The Movie would urge the writer to cut them. Donald the cartoon misogynist; Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, the ‘a little on-the-nose’ southerner; Ivanka, the human sugar-free vanilla latte.
But yesterday a minor character in Trumpland reminded us that she can be just as obnoxious and tiresome as the people with actual job titles. Meet the real housewife of the U.S. Treasury, Louise Linton.
Yesterday, Linton, wife of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, posted a photo of herself disembarking an official government plane wearing Roland Mouret, Hermes, Tom Ford, and Valentino. We know she was wearing those labels because she included them as hashtags in the photo caption. “ Great #daytrip to #Kentucky!” she wrote, in addition to the aforementioned designer shout-outs. The photo didn’t sit well with Jenni Miller, a Portland, Oregon mother of three, who wrote “Glad we could pay for your little getaway #deplorable.”
There are several ways Linton could have handled this comment that would have been better than what she actually did. She could have ignored it, always the best way to stave off an Instagram fight (the least dignified of the social media fights). She could have had the foresight to not post the photo in the first place. She could have posted the photo, but not in front of a logo that made it look like the U.S. government was funding her and her husbands’ fun little #daytrips.
But Linton didn’t do any of these things. Instead, she made fun of Jenni Miller for being poor.
Linton wrote, “Aw!!! Did you think this was a personal trip?! Adorable! Do you think the US govt paid for our honeymoon or personal travel?! Lololol. 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 continued, “I’m pretty sure we paid more taxes toward our day ‘trip’ than you did. 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. Thanks for the passive aggressive comment.”
“Your life looks cute,” she later added. She then deleted the comment, and finally made her Instagram account private.
A Bloomberg report clarified that Linton has been paying for her own travel when she accompanies Mnuchin, but not before the damage was done, her tackiness unleashed, her name all over American news media for acting like an incorrigible brat. One can only imagine the conniption conservative-leaning outlets would be having if one of the Obama girls was similarly boastful.
Before Linton married Treasury Secretary and verifiable swamp dweller Steve Mnuchin two months ago, she was working as an actress. Her resume included the role of “skin care consultant” in a 2008 Tom Cruise film, a role that was eventually cut entirely from the finished product. She also played “Deputy Winston” on 2015’s Cabin Fever, illustrious recipient of a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. She grew up in a castle in Scotland. A literal castle.
Linton was born in Scotland to wealthy parents, was raised in a castle (literally), attended boarding school, and was sent to the U.S. to attend college at Pepperdine, one of the most expensive undergraduate universities in the United States. She received her law degree from the University of West Los Angeles School of Law, which is not accredited by the American Bar Association. Her husband graduated from Yale and immediately went to work for Goldman Sachs before managing hedge funds up to and through the financial collapse of 2007-2008. Neither has served in the military.
Linton’s comments on sacrifice came hours before Trump vowed to increase troop engagement in Afghanistan.
This isn’t Linton’s first unfortunate foray into viral fame. In 2016, she published a memoir of the six months she spent in Zambia during her 1999 gap year. The book, In Congo’s Shadow promised readers “one girl’s perilous journey in the heart of Africa.” In the book, she described escaping attacks from crocodiles and foot-long spiders, hiding from rebels, and being nicknamed “angel hair” by the HIV-positive children with whom she was volunteering. One portion of the book, published after the initial backlash by The Scotsman, read, “As the night ticked interminably by, I tried not to think what the rebels would do to the ‘skinny white muzungu with long angel hair’ if they found me. Clenching my jaw to stop my teeth chattering, I squeezed my eyes shut and reminded myself how I’d come to be a central character in this horror story.”
Linton’s memoirs were refuted as false by people who worked where she volunteered, and criticized by the Zambian High Commission in London. Zambia had been at peace when Linton was working there, and memoirs that falsely characterize it as a war-torn hellhole understandably threaten the tourism industry on which many of its residents depend.
In addition, Linton’s book featured photos of the HIV-positive children she worked with, which were used without the children’s (or their families’) permission.
The backlash was so acute that Linton pulled the book and apologized.
Perhaps it’s unfair to compare Linton to a Real Housewife. After all, Real Housewives are able to rein it in, sometimes. Brandy Glanville sort of half-apologized after implying on an episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills that black people can’t swim. In a Real Housewives of Melbourne reunion show, one cast member accused another of “blatant racism” in dealing with her Filipina housekeeper. The other cast members and viewers were on the accuser’s side.
Still, Linton has the perfect backstory and apparent thirst for drama for a Real Housewife. It’s a shame she’s representing America instead of Bravo television, where she’d be a better fit. As a statesman’s spouse, she brings into relief how embarrassing this administration is from top billing down, from its stars to its minor unnamed characters that will probably get cut from the final version. Skin care consultant. Africa fabulist. Instagram fool.