On Friday, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin sent a letter to the Office of Government Ethics stating regret over his suggestion that audience members at an event last week go see The Lego Batman Movie, a film he executive produced.
The comment came toward the end of a Q&A session at the Axios media company’s debut “News Shapers” event. When asked for movie recommendations, Mnuchin, who is listed as a producer on 38 films on IMDb, reminded audience members that federal regulation code required him not to endorse any product. “So I just want to have the legal disclosure that you’ve asked me the question and I am not promoting any product,” he said. “But you should send all your kids to Lego Batman.”
Mnuchin’s response drew criticism from government watchdogs like the Center for Responsive Politics, which likened the remark to Kellyanne Conway’s plug for Ivanka Trump’s fashion line in February. Earlier this week, Senate Finance Committee Democrat Ron Wyden asked OGE to review the comments.
On Friday, Mnuchin pointed out that he’d acknowledged OGE’s rules in the onstage Q&A. Nevertheless, he wrote, “I ended my response to that light-hearted question with words that could reasonably have been interpreted to encourage the questioner to see a film in which I was associated. I should not have made that statement.” Mnuchin promised to not mention films he would benefit directly by promoting — say, Suicide Squad or Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, both of which he helped to finance — in the future.
To date, The Lego Batman Moviehas made $171.7 million at the domestic box office and $121.6 million abroad.