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Larry Summers Really Didn't Think Much of the Winklevoss Twins

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Larry Summers may be the White House's outgoing top economic adviser, but the public at large knows him best for his role in The Social Network.

In last year's hit drama on the founding of Facebook, Summers, then Harvard's president, has a key scene. The Summers character chastens the movie's antagonists, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who have weaseled their way into his plush office to ask him to intervene in their squabble with Facebook's founder, Mark Zuckerberg.

As Aaron Sorkin's script has it, Summers unleashes the snark on the annoyingly preppy identical twins before they even sit down: “From the looks of it, they want to sell me a Brooks Brothers franchise,” he tells the vastly-more-important luminary on the other end of the phone call the undergrads are interrupting.

After hearing their case, Summers doesn't think much more of the two. He dismisses their claim that the sandal-clad coding savant Zuckerberg violated the school's honor code by stealing their vague concept for a Harvard-based dating site. Summers then suggests they come up with a new idea, going on to upbraid them for bringing the dorm-room squabble to his dark wood desk. “You don't get special treatment,” he admonishes the stunned trust-funders, who've received nothing but special treatment since their single zygote split into two embryos.

(You can watch highlights of the scene here, but be warned, the YouTuber who uploaded the clip uses some impolite language to describe the former Treasury secretary.)

Summers has a reputation for prickliness, but would the eminent economist really have been such a jerk right off the bat?

As it turns out, yes, he would have, and he was.

Asked about the incident in an interview at a Fortune conference, Summers readily admitted his off-the-bat disdain for the athletic Ivy Leaguers, who got a settlement worth $65 million for not really inventing Facebook and still are suing for more.

Why didn't he like the litigious duo? Because undergrads in suits are ***holes, that's why.

Here's the key exchange:

WALTER ISAACSON: So was that scene in The Social Network true?


DR. SUMMERS: I've heard it said that I can be arrogant.


DR. SUMMERS: If that's true, I surely was on that occasion. One of the things you learn as a college president is that if an undergraduate is wearing a tie and jacket on Thursday afternoon at three o'clock, there are two possibilities. One is that they're looking for a job and have an interview; the other is that they are an (anal sphincter.)

(Laughter; applause.)

DR. SUMMERS: This was the latter case. Rarely, have I encountered such swagger, and I tried to respond in kind.

(Laughter; applause.)

So while Zuckerberg insists the whole storyline of the Best Picture Oscar nominee was hogwash, with his wardrobe the only accurate thing about Zuck's onscreen character, now we know it at least nailed this part: Like most of us, Larry Summers thought the Winklevii were entitled twits before they even opened their mouths.

If you'd like to watch the rest of the half-hour interview, where Summers goes into some weightier topics including the debt-ceiling debate, check out the video here.
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