- Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development, is under fire for getting a $31,000 lavish dining-room set for his office.
- Carson suggested during a House committee hearing on Tuesday that his wife, Candy Carson, was to blame for the extravagant spending.
- The secretary also said the furniture was necessary for safety reasons.
Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development, suggested Tuesday that his wife, Candy Carson, was to blame for the purchase of a $31,000 mahogany dining-room set for his office.
During testimony before a House committee, Ben Carson said the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s dining-room furniture needed to be replaced for safety reasons.
“People were being stuck by nails – a chair had collapsed with somebody sitting in it,” Carson told the committee during his first congressional hearing since the controversial purchase was reported last month.
So he asked Candy Carson to help with the redecoration efforts.
“I left it with my wife,” he said. “The next thing that I, quite frankly, heard about it was that this $31,000 table had been bought.”
Ben Carson said he briefly perused furniture catalogs before the purchase was made and was unhappy with what he thought were extravagant prices.
“My wife also looked at catalogs and wanted to be sure that the color of the chair fabric of any set that was chosen matched the rest of the decor,” Carson said in a statement on March 1.
Carson insisted that he had the furniture order canceled “immediately” after finding out about it, and he told the committee the idea that he was spending lavishly on his office while simultaneously cutting the department’s budget “makes for a wonderful story” but “bears no resemblance to the truth.”
But, he added, HUD “used the opportunity” to figure out what “internal controls” had allowed the purchase in the first place.
He said the department had “been able to address those” since getting a chief financial officer in December.
.@secretarycarsonon $31,000 table: “I said, ‘what the heck is that allabout?'”
— CSPAN (@cspan) March 20, 2018
Carson’s spending first attracted scrutiny when Helen Foster, a former top HUD official, filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel over the spending. Foster said Carson’s wife pressured her to find a way around the $5,000 legal price limit for the office redecoration, then retaliated when she refused.
Foster said she was told that “$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair” and that she had to find the money.
It was enough to trigger an investigation by the House Oversight Committee. Rep. Trey Gowdy, the committee’s chairman, sent Carson’s staff a letter in late February demanding documents about office furnishings and an explanation for the $31,000 purchase.
A HUD spokesman initially denied that Carson and his wife had anything to do with the purchase and said the table was bought by “career staffers in charge of the building.”
But internal emails show that HUD staffers repeatedly consulted with Candy Carson about redecorating the office.
But the Carsons maintain there was “no dishonesty or wrongdoing.”
“Thank you to so many who have expressed concern for me and my family over the latest accusations,” said a tweet on the couple’s joint account last month. “All the numbers and evidence are being gathered and a full disclosure is forthcoming.”
Michelle Mark contributed to this report.