Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is scrambling to address his department’s $31,000 order of shitty furniture for his personal office. After initially suggesting that, yes, he’d be keeping the mahogany table, sideboard, breakfront, and 10 chairs, Carson backtracked on Thursday, saying he was “as surprised as anyone to find out that a $31,000 dining set had been ordered.”
Federal law bars department heads from spending over $5,000 to renovate their office without congressional approval.
“I have requested that the order be canceled,” Carson added in a statement released through his longtime friend and confidant Armstrong Williams, who is also not a government employee.
News of the dining set purchase—made while the White House was proposing deep cuts to HUD’s budget—came after a whistleblower alleged that his wife, Candy Carson, had pushed for the expensive renovations to her husband’s office.
In his statement on Thursday, Ben Carson confirmed that his wife had, in fact, been a driving factor in the purchase after all.
“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,” Secretary Carson said, adding that she also had “asked if used furniture was an option.” (For those wondering about the color of the chair fabric, it’s blue.)
As the New York Times reported when the furniture purchase was first made public, the actual order was filed by a “career staffer,” after the secretary had criticized the previous dining set for scuffs and scratches.
This is hardly the first time a Carson family member has been implicated in this way. In early February, department emails showed Carson’s son, Ben Jr., had helped his father in official HUD matters, including organizing a “listening tour” through Baltimore. The involvement came after HUD attorneys explicitly warned the secretary that his son’s involvement in the agency could be in violation of federal law.
Those same HUD emails also showed Candy Carson pushing for Ben Jr. to be granted access to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, whose department would likely have influence over Carson Jr.’s infrastructure and engineering business.
Carson insisted his department would move forward to “find another solution for the furniture replacement.”