Louise Linton has proved herself to be an exceptionally obnoxious human being.
She has done this by posting on Instagram a boastful photo of herself stepping off a government plane ahead of her husband, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “United States of America” is emblazoned on the fuselage. He’s in a dark suit and red tie. Her long hair is blowing back in a gentle breeze. It’s all looking rather presidential, truth be told. The picture is also reminiscent of fashion advertisements. And Linton captioned it with a litany of designer credits.
The couple was returning from Kentucky, where Mnuchin made the case for tax reform. Linton, in case anyone was wondering, is not a tax expert; she is a Scottish-born actress and producer. Her post was, of course, criticized. And in response, she unleashed a condescending tirade that essentially amounted to: I’m rich. You’re not. Shut up and go watch “Game of Thrones.”
Linton’s Instagram account is now private. But the hell storm has already been unleashed. Oh, Louise.
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In the picture, Linton is a study in white and beige, from her platinum locks to her studded sandals. She has helpfully tagged the various designer brands she’s wearing. Thus, everyone knows she’s dressed in Roland Mouret trousers, Valentino sandals and Tom Ford sunglasses. She is carrying an Hermès scarf. She doesn’t mention it, but she’s also toting a white Hermès Birkin. But you knew that, right?
A lot of bragging occurs on Instagram, with users regularly sharing pictures of glorious vacations, mouthwatering meals, adorable babies and pets, and many, many fashion highlights. This is the nature of social media, and folks are generally pretty forgiving about an excessive amount of look-at-me obsessiveness. But Linton isn’t just anyone. She is married to the treasury secretary. This doesn’t mean she is a celebrity or even in the public eye - despite her acting credits. It means she is spotlight-adjacent. It means people will only pay attention to her if, for better or worse, she consciously scooches over into the limelight.
Linton has been doing a lot of scooching.
Before her June wedding, she gave Town and Country magazine a peek inside her jewelry box along with lengthy descriptions of how she acquired each diamond bracelet, necklace and pair of earrings. The message was not that Linton has several pieces of deeply meaningful jewelry; it was that Linton has lots of diamonds and pearls and aren’t they gorgeous? She then married Mnuchin in a black-tie wedding at the District of Columbia’s Mellon Auditorium to which she wore a custom white-lace princess gown with a plunging V-neck by Toronto-based designer Ines Di Santo. We know all about the gown and its provenance because Linton purchased the dress through the Georgetown bridal shop Carine’s Bridal Atelier, which posted a quote thoughtfully provided by Linton on its Instagram account: “I was thrilled that there was a bridal salon right here in DC that could call on designers to fly in gowns for inspiration to create my custom looks.” Most brides typically just say, “Thank you.”
Linton is a regular presence at Mnuchin’s side, and not just at major events such as the inauguration, when she was still his fiancee, but also at hearings and commissioning ceremonies. She is always camera-ready. And she appears to have multiple Birkins and an affection for the work of designer Roland Mouret.
To be clear, Linton’s Instagram post was not obnoxious because of the designer shout-outs. Those were ill-considered, but fashion folks do that all the time as they delight in some splendid new bauble. Everyone should be free to chirp with glee. And it’s not as though anything she was wearing was startling or exceptional in the great scheme of fashion. (Sorry, Louise.) Indeed, those Valentino rock-stud strappy sandals have been around so long and had such commercial success that they are practically the iPhone of designer footwear.
Instead, it was Linton’s impulse to lash out at JenniMiller29, who had all of 379 followers, with an extensive commentary about Linton and Mnuchin’s financial contribution to the economy that set people’s teeth on edge. “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? ... Pretty sure that the amount we sacrifice per year is a lot more than you’d be willing to sacrifice if the choice was yours,” Linton wrote.
She made the sneering suggestion that a person’s income is the best measure of their value and stature, which is to suggest that the millions of dollars Mnuchin made in banking and hedge-funding reflect his actual cultural and societal value rather than the nature of a capitalist economy - an economy that typically undervalues teachers, mothers, home health-care aides, day-care providers, etc. Linton implied that becoming treasury secretary for the world’s largest economy was a breathtaking sacrifice in service to his country. (And I guess she took a blow for the nation by marrying one.) Surely it has its challenges, but part of sacrificing in the name of patriotism is not talking about how much you’re sacrificing in the name of patriotism.
In a single Instagram post, Linton managed to tap into elitism, narcissism, self-righteousness, incivility, apathy and blonde privilege - all wrapped up in a designer package. Linton was so pleased with how chic she looked deplaning that she wanted to share that image on social media. The whole running-the-country thing was straight out of central casting. The couple looked the part. But even the best actors will tell you that beautiful costumes can’t compensate for a lousy narrative.
Robin Givhan is a staff writer and the Washington Post fashion critic.