Because we live in hell, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson was forced once again to explain how his office managed to spend $31,000 of public money on a table. Speaking before a House subcommittee on Tuesday, he got out of the metaphorical bus, threw his wife Candy under it, got back in the bus, and promptly drove over her.
Here’s video of Carson explaining how we all came to know about the $31,000 table, courtesy of CSPAN:
Here’s the bulk of his rambling, circuitous explanation:
First of all, when I assumed the position, I was told that, traditionally, secretaries redecorate their offices. I came in, I looked at it—you know, I’m not really big into decorating. If it was up to me my office would probably look like a hospital waiting room. But at any rate, I invited my wife to come in and help me downstairs at the sub-basement. We have a bunch of used furniture, we went down, made a couple of changes, had some drapes added, which were down in the basement also, and some blinds for the window. The total cost for the renovation: $3,500. A few months later, I was told that the dining room set needed to be changed. I said, ‘Why?’ Because people are being stuck by nails, a chair collapsed with somebody sitting in it—it’s 50 years old. I said, ‘OK, we could potentially do that.’ I ask my wife also to help me with that. They showed us some catalogues; the prices were beyond what I wanted to pay. I made it clear that didn’t seem right to me. And, you know, I left it with my wife, I said, ‘Help choose something.’ But I said, ‘The money that is going to be used—we need to take care of the deputy secretary’s office, and whatever’s leftover, take care of the dining room furniture. It was very important to do that. I realized that. But I had so many other important things to do at that point. I had no assistant secretary, I had no deputy secretary, I was running from place to place dealing with a lot of important issues, so I really wasn’t all that concerned about furniture. The next thing that I, quite frankly, heard about it, was that this $31,000 table had been bought. I said, ‘What the heck is that all about?’
What the heck indeed! Carson went on to restate part of what he’d told the press already, that he’s since canceled the order. CNN confirmed with the company that the order was indeed canceled on March 1. But Carson’s story has changed a few times.
The secretary first tried to blame the order—which far exceeds the $5,000 limit imposed by federal law for department heads to redecorate their offices—on an unnamed “career staffer.” “Mrs. Carson and the secretary had no awareness that the table was being purchased,” a HUD spokesperson told CNN last month.
But after documents (including emails)—obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by American Oversight, a watchdog group run by former Obama administration staffers—appeared to show both Ben and Candy Carson picking out the expensive furniture themselves, the secretary decided to cast his wife out to be eaten by the wolves. The same HUD spokesperson told CNN last week: “When presented with options by professional staff, Mrs. Carson participated in the selection of specific styles.”
Meanwhile, Ben Carson wants to slash $8.8 billion from HUD’s budget.