UCLA released a previously withheld video on Friday that shows students hissing and near-constant heckling toward Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a moderated talk that quickly took an awkward turn.
The university said in a statement that Mnuchin, who at first “subsequently withdrew” his approval for the video to be posted online, later gave consent for the video to be published.
Audience members at UCLA hissed at Mnuchin nearly every time he spoke – calling out the Trump administration’s tax bill and the United States’ use of sanctions – at times, prompting a joking response from the secretary while lashing out at others.
“I normally go speak to people who want to listen to me speak,” Mnuchin cracked. “You guys get to hiss at me. I don’t get to hiss at you.”
At one point, the secretary asked an audience member who hissed at him for “a little feedback,” in which a man replied: “I think you’re bulls—t.”
“If you think I’ve got nothing to say, maybe you should just leave,” responded Mnuchin.
Another heckler was carted off by police after interrupting Mnuchin while he was talking about sanctions and denuclearizing North Korea, saying the U.S. is “bullying” the country.
“What you’re doing is bullying North Korea who is developing nuclear weapons for deterrence purposes. And, this is what the U.S. does all over the world. You’re talking about being a beacon for hope and freedom and democracy – that’s bulls—t,” a woman can be heard yelling before police intervened.
Two other women in the audience were also escorted out of the auditorium after ignoring warnings to stop heckling.
UCLA’s initial decision to withhold the video at the request of Mnuchin drew backlash from activists. Several news organizations also filed public-records requests to release the video.
“This event took place at a public institution and the video was collected by a state body,” David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, one of the groups that argued for the release, said in a statement Monday. “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.”
Snyder, who cited California law, said third parties should not have control over UCLA.
Just two months ago, someone left a package addressed to Mnuchin from “the American people” that was filled with horse manure near his home in Los Angeles.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.