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Mnuchin says joke about 'Lego Batman Movie' was mistake

Associated Press logo Associated Press 3/31/2017 By MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics Writer
FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017 file photo, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. Mnuchin may be new to government, but he’s learning quickly that it’s not a good idea to make a joke that could run afoul of government ethics rules. In a letter Friday, March 31, 2017, to the head of the Office of Government Ethics, Mnuchin says it was a mistake for him last week to jokingly urge parents to send their kids to see “The Lego Batman Movie.” Mnuchin was an executive producer of the top-grossing movie, which is still in theaters. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017 file photo, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. Mnuchin may be new to government, but he’s learning quickly that it’s not a good idea to make a joke that could run afoul of government ethics rules. In a letter Friday, March 31, 2017, to the head of the Office of Government Ethics, Mnuchin says it was a mistake for him last week to jokingly urge parents to send their kids to see “The Lego Batman Movie.” Mnuchin was an executive producer of the top-grossing movie, which is still in theaters. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin may be new to government, but he's learning quickly that it's not a good idea to make a joke that could run afoul of government ethics rules.

FILE - In this March 9, 2017 file photo,Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, right, talks while awaiting the start of a meeting between President Donald Trump and leaders from small community banks, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. Mnuchin may be new to government, but he’s learning quickly that it’s not a good idea to make a joke that could run afoul of government ethics rules. In a letter Friday, March 31, 2017, to the head of the Office of Government Ethics, Mnuchin says it was a mistake for him last week to jokingly urge parents to send their kids to see “The Lego Batman Movie.” Mnuchin was an executive producer of the top-grossing movie, which is still in theaters. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this March 9, 2017 file photo,Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, right, talks while awaiting the start of a meeting between President Donald Trump and leaders from small community banks, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. Mnuchin may be new to government, but he’s learning quickly that it’s not a good idea to make a joke that could run afoul of government ethics rules. In a letter Friday, March 31, 2017, to the head of the Office of Government Ethics, Mnuchin says it was a mistake for him last week to jokingly urge parents to send their kids to see “The Lego Batman Movie.” Mnuchin was an executive producer of the top-grossing movie, which is still in theaters. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

In a letter Friday to the head of the Office of Government Ethics, Mnuchin says it was a mistake for him last week to jokingly urge parents to send their kids to see "The Lego Batman Movie." Mnuchin was an executive producer of the top-grossing movie, which is still in theaters.

Mnuchin said his comment, which came at the end of an hour-long public interview sponsored by the news site Axios, was meant as a joke in response to a light-hearted question about what current movies he would recommend.

At the event, Mnuchin had said, "I'm not allowed to promote anything that I'm involved in. So I just want to have the legal disclosure, you've asked me the question, and I am not promoting any product. But you should send all your kids to 'Lego Batman.' "

In his letter Friday to Walter M. Shaub Jr., director of the Office of Government Ethics, Mnuchin said, "I should not have made that statement. .... I fully appreciate the core ethics principle that public office is a public trust and that no employee may use his office for his own or others' private gain. I want to reassure you that I will exercise greater caution to avoid any suggestion that I do not take these important rules seriously."

Treasury said in an accompanying statement that Mnuchin had made his comment in jest, and it was "not intended to be a product endorsement of any movie. We think that's clear in context."

Kellyanne Conway, a top White House adviser to President Donald Trump, was criticized for saying in a Feb. 9 television interview that people should "go buy Ivanka's stuff," a day after Trump had attacked Nordstrom department stores for dropping his daughter's line of clothes and accessories.

Shaub wrote a letter criticizing the White House for not taking disciplinary action against Conway saying the lack of action "risks undermining the ethics program."

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