Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is probably the universe’s greatest living proof that a person can be brilliant in one respect (brain surgery) and a total dumdum in another (housing and also urban development).
Take, for instance, his Tuesday appearance before the House Financial Services Committee, where he failed to identify a fundamental acronym under his department’s purview and instead assumed it was the brand name of a cookie. A literal, honest-to-god, actual cookie.
“Do you know what an REO rate is?” California Democratic Rep. Katie Porter asked Carson, after asking him to explain the disparity in said rates.
“An Oreo?” a confused-sounding Carson responded.
Why Carson would think a congresswoman needed his opinion about delicious cream-filled cookies is anyone’s guess. Thankfully, an unfazed Porter explained to Carson—who, again, runs a massive federal department dedicated to housing—that REOs are “Real Estate Owned” properties, which is “what happens when a property goes to foreclosure.”
Carson was evidently unaware that his own department has a “common terms and acronyms” page, which clearly defines REO as “real estate owned (in reference to defaulted FHA-insured properties.)” HUD even has an entire website dedicated to REO listings.
Carson’s cookie brain moment came shortly after he stumbled trying to answer a question from Ohio Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty about the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion, or OMWI, a term Carson apparently mistook for “Amway,” the home and beauty marketers.
As Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin noted after Carson’s exchange with Beatty, HUD doesn’t actually have an OMWI program (it does have an Office of Diversity and Inclusion) which makes the secretary’s confusion slightly more understandable. But this man is a Cabinet secretary—even if he doesn’t have OMWI in his department, you’d think he’d at least know what it is, right? This isn’t brain surgery.