Steve Mnuchin didn’t mean to promote The Lego Batman Movie — which he executive produced — when he told an interviewer last week that “you should send all your kids to Lego Batman,” the Treasury Secretary told the Office of Government Ethics today in a mea culpa letter.
The answer created a minor stir. Government rules proscribe officials from using their position to enrich themselves. Mnuchin acknowledged as much last week when he preceded his answer to a question about movie recommendations at event hosted by media company Axios by saying that he’s “not allowed to promote anything that I’m involved in. So I just want to have the legal disclosure that you’ve asked me the question and I am not promoting any product.”
He says today, though, that, his “response to that light-hearted question …could reasonably have been interpreted to encourage the questioner to see a film with which I was associated. I should not have made that statement.”
Mnuchin adds that he takes “very seriously my ethical responsibilities as a Presidential appointee and the head of the Department of the Treasury.” As a result he plans to “schedule a follow-up briefing” with his department’s Designated Agency Ethics Official to discuss “the rules of conduct.”
He also vowed to “exercise greater caution to avoid any suggestion that I do not take these important rules seriously” and will “promote an ethical culture within the Department of the Treasury.”
Today’s letter contrasts with Treasury Deparment’s initial response which noted that Mnuchin “gave the legal disclosure that he was not promoting a movie, but answering a question he was asked directly.”
The Center for Responsive Politics and others likened Mnuchin’s joking answer urging people to see his movie to comments that President Trump’s adviser Kellyanne Conway made to Fox & Friends pushing Ivanka Trump’s clothing line after Nordstrom did not renew its contract with the First Daughter’s company.
The President tweeted that his daughter was “treated so unfairly” by the department store chain.