Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who made a boatload of money in the entertainment industry before joining President Donald Trump’s administration, lamented that the economic stimulus package, a response to the nation’s coronavirus crisis, contains money for the arts.
The Senate-approved package, which is expected to be signed by Trump after the House passes it, includes $75 million for the National Endowment for the Arts and $75 million for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which supports PBS television stations and National Public Radio stations. Also, $25 million in stimulus money will go to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
“I like the Kennedy Center. I don’t know why we needed to put that in the coronavirus bill. And public broadcasting. These aren’t coronavirus,” Mnuchin said Wednesday night on Hannity, the Fox News show hosted by Sean Hannity.
When Hannity accused Democrats of stuffing the bill with pork, Mnuchin countered that it was a business negotiation and the two parties needed to compromise.
“They’re willing to let those Americans suffer and wait so they can get all of this crap for the National Endowment for the Arts and the Kennedy Center, all of this other garbage,” said Hannity.
“I agree with you,” said Mnuchin. “I’d rather be sending that money to hospitals than sending that money to the Kennedy Center. Nothing against the Kennedy Center, but this is about the coronavirus.”
Mnuchin added, “We took out anything having to do with wind and environmental issues and cut lots of things out of this deal.”
Mnuchin’s statements put him slightly at odds with Trump, who revealed during a press conference Wednesday that Democrats wanted $35 million for the Kennedy Center but the Republicans settled for $25 million.
“The Kennedy Center, they do a beautiful job,” Trump said. “I didn’t have a problem with it, but this was a request from the Democrats because of the fact that they have a facility that’s essentially closed.”
The CPB and Kennedy Center didn’t respond to a request for comment, but the latter announced on March 17 it would shut down until at least May 10. The CPB and NEA, meanwhile, are always lightning rods when it comes to public funding, with many Republicans arguing that they should get less money, or none at all, from taxpayers.
Also, small businesses of all types will have access to more than $450 billion in loan guarantees after Trump signs the legislation. The National Association of Theatre Owners, which lobbies on behalf of the movie exhibition industry, has praised the bill and predicts it can help theater operators survive now that most U.S. auditoriums are closed for an undetermined amount of time.
Mnuchin has deep ties to the movie industry, having been an investor in RatPac-Dune Entertainment, which co-produced American Sniper and Mad Max: Fury Road. He also has numerous film credits, such as executive producer on titles like Sully starring Tom Hanks and The Accountant starring Ben Affleck.