Louise Linton would perhaps like to be known for the films she’s appeared in and the philanthropic endeavors she’s undertaken, but that’s not why she was thrust into the spotlight this week.
While she’s played small supporting roles in a handful of films with high-profile actors, including Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep in “Lions for Lambs,” and starred in “Scavengers,” she wasn’t the sort of celebrity who regularly turned up in gossip blogs.
Then she caused social media to blow up, was ridiculed internationally and wound up issuing an apology on Tuesday for “inappropriate and highly insensitive” behavior.
How did that happen?
Two months ago, the 36-year-old Linton married Steven T. Mnuchin, 54, President Trump’s Treasury secretary. On Monday, Linton accompanied her husband to Kentucky, where he went to discuss a tax plan he supports but many worry would benefit the wealthy.
Linton later posted a picture on Instagram of her and Mnuchin descending from the plane. The caption catalogued her expensive outfit:
“Great #daytrip to #Kentucky! #nicest #people #beautiful #countryside #rolandmouret pants #tomford sunnies, #hermesscarf #valentinorockstudheels #valentino #usa
Sure, Instagram is for showing off, but the post struck many people as insensitive, at best, given that she was traveling at taxpayer expense and appeared to be bragging about an exceptionally lavish wardrobe.
(A Treasury spokesman issued a statement later that said the Mnuchins reimbursed the government for Linton’s travel expenses.)
But that wasn’t where it ended.
One of the responses on Instagram came from a woman named Jenni Miller, who wrote: “Glad we could pay for your little getaway. #deplorable”
Instead of ignoring Miller, as any public relations consultant would have begged her to do, Linton responded in a message dripping with snark and fury:
“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? 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....”
The Instagram post has since been deleted and Linton set her account to private, but the damage had been done, prompting Tuesday’s public apology.
“I apologize for my post on social media yesterday as well as my response,” the statement said. “It was inappropriate and highly insensitive.”
Vanity Fair estimates that Linton’s outfit cost thousands of dollars; her sunglasses alone sell for $445 and the Hermes scarf for $940.
Linton describes herself as “a passionate advocate for people and animals” and is involved in a number of philanthropic activities, including serving on the board of the UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital and Ambassador for the Scottish Butterfly Trust for Cystic Fibrosis.
She has shown off her lavish lifestyle many times before. Town & Country magazine featured her in a piece in which she discussed the various jewelry pieces she planned to wear to her June 24 wedding (where the guests included Trump and First Lady Melania Trump). She has graced the covers of several other prominent magazines.
Linton was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, to wealthy parents William and Rachel Hay.
When Linton was 14, her mother died from breast cancer. Linton would later describe her mother as “an extraordinary, compassionate, selfless person.”
Linton and her two siblings, Suzanne and David, grew up in a castle in Dalkeith and spent weekends at Scotland’s Melville Castle — a childhood most children can only dream of but which Linton described “a very normal life.”
“The castle is magical and filled with so much history,” she told Flavour magazine in 2015. “It was an idyllic childhood spent mostly outdoors with all the animals. My siblings and I zoomed around on little motorbikes, kayaked, fished, spent time racing through the woods shooting each other with B.B. guns.”
Not so normal: Linton said the castle in Dalkeith “is definitely haunted.”
“Many people have claimed to see a ghost,” she told the Daily Record in 2015. “Many have even claimed it’s Mary Queen of Scots because it’s where she had her romance with David Rizzio.”
From a young age, Linton’s eyes were set on acting. She had been drawn to the arts at a young age. As a child she joined the Edinburgh Drama Academy and later was taught by a private teacher from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts.
She had a significant detour beginning at age 18, when she decided to spend a few months volunteering in northern Zambia before moving to Southern California to pursue a journalism degree from Pepperdine University and later a law degree from the University of West L.A. Law School.
It was the first of those pursuits that led to another out-of-touch moment.
The aspiring actress later wrote about her gap year in northern Zambia in a memoir self-published in 2016 titled, “In Congo’s Shadow: One Girl’s Perilous Journey to the Heart of Africa.”
Linton received backlash for remarks some found offensive and factual errors about the country. In the book, Linton describes having to protect an HIV-positive orphan girl, and her close encounters with wildlife — which many people argued was an example of elitism and a white savior complex.
She later retracted the book and issued an apology on her website:
“I never imagined the book would insult anyone. I have great warmth and admiration for Zambia and her people, and was deeply dismayed and saddened that I had caused them any offense.”