After six minutes of sustained hissing for everything from economic growth to sanctions, hecklers at the University of California — Los Angeles (UCLA) accused Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin of “bullying North Korea” and sentencing 9 billion children to death.
As Mnuchin gave his prepared remarks about the importance of sanctions for “eliminating nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula,” a young woman shot up and started yelling, “What you’re doing is bullying North Korea who is developing nuclear weapons for this very purposes!”
“This is what the U.S. does all over the world,” the young woman continued. “You’re talking about being a beacon for hope and freedom and democracy, that’s bullsh*t! We know that’s bullsh*t. We know that this tax bill and what that represents is sentencing people to death, including children. Nine billion children who are going to be left without healthcare.” (There are fewer than 9 billion people on earth, and approximately 1.9 billion children.)
Her rant concluded with a descent into racial identity politics. Speaking about “moving jobs overseas,” she yelled, “It wasn’t black people and brown people in the inner cities who did this, and yet you are punishing them!”
As police removed the woman from the hall where Mnuchin spoke, her friend shot up, yelling, “Look at what they’re doing!” This second young woman accused the White House of being “a regime which is hellbent on consolidating fascism! This tax bill is going after people who are vulnerable. This is politics of cruelty! This is politics of fascism!”
Officials kept warning the second woman — as they had warned the first — that her disruptive yelling would result in her being forcibly removed from the auditorium. Even so, she continued, attacking the tax bill as “part of an ethnic cleansing,” and declaring, at the top of her lungs, “Black and brown people are not going to have anything to eat!”
Throughout the encounter, Mnuchin remained steady and calm. After the second young lady had been removed by police officers, he said, “Okay, that was interesting.”
While Mnuchin’s speech and the absurd heckling occurred on February 26, UCLA reportedly held the video back due to Mnuchin’s request. On Friday, the Treasury secretary gave his approval for the video to be released.
David Snyder, executive director at the First Amendment Coalition, decried the embargo of the video. “It’s troubling that the university initially caved to the request of a third party to withhold public records, and even more troubling that when they did eventually release the footage, they claimed to do so because they ‘received consent’ from the Treasury Department,” he told CBS News.
It remains unclear why Mnuchin wished the video to be withheld. At the very beginning of Mnuchin’s speech, the audience broke into loud hissing. “I assume you support the importance of education,” he said, to an increase of hissing. “Does that mean you don’t like the business school?” he quipped.
As he pivoted to the issue of sanctions, the hissing intensified. “You’re going to hiss about sanctions?” he asked in disbelief. “You guys are okay with all the oppression and everything going on in the world? You’re going to hiss about my sanctions?”
The hissing ratcheted up when Mnuchin discussed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Cannily, he responded, “You guys obviously aren’t receiving paycheck yet, because if you were getting paychecks in February when your withholding went down and you got tax cuts, you wouldn’t be hissing.”
Throughout the encounter, Mnuchin remained cool as his hecklers became more and more unhinged. He did look uncomfortable, but he never lashed out. The Treasury secretary should not be ashamed of the video — he should be proud.
Watch the video below. Mnuchin’s speech begins around minute 9, and the accusations of “bullying North Korea” begin around minute 15.