Ben Carson Defends Purchase Of Dining Room Table For His Office, Blames His Wife For Cost
I hope Ben Carson has a comfortable couch at home.
Secretary of Housing And Urban Development Ben Carson is simultaneously defending the purchase of a $31,000 dining room table for his office and blaming his wife for a purchase that has aroused controversy in Washington for its tone-deafness:
WASHINGTON — Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development, told a House committee on Tuesday he failed to adhere to a $5,000 federal spending cap for the purchase of a $31,000 lavish mahogany dining room set for his office out of concern for safety — not for decorative purposes.
Mr. Carson, appearing before Congress for the first time since the purchaseof the table, chairs and hutch was made public, appeared annoyed when a Democrat at the hearing suggested that he was guilty of “ethical lapses” and turning over key decisions to members of his family.
“If it were up to me I would decorate my office like a hospital waiting room,” said Mr. Carson, a neurosurgeon, who suggested, under pressure from members of the committee that oversees his department, that his wife Candy Carson and senior staffers had made the final purchase decision while he was tending to agency affairs.
“People were stuck by nails, and a chair had collapsed with someone sitting in it,” said Mr. Carson, apparently referring to an email, sent by a senior aide last summer, in which she expressed the fear that the old dining set was falling apart and could lead to a mishap
The purchase first came to light in late February and was accompanied by other reports about the extent to which Carson’s family was benefiting from his position as HUD Secretary. Shortly after the report came out, Carson announced that the purchase had been canceled.
To be fair, from some of the reports it does appear that the table and chairs did need to be replaced. The set was several decades old and apparently in a state of disrepair that could not be effectively renovating. Notwithstanding that fact, though, the price does seem to be rather extraordinary and utter tone deaf. This is especially true given the fact that the Trump Administration is requesting more than $6 billion be cut from HUD programs designed to help the poor and homeless. Even if one concedes that this is some reason for the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development to have a dining room table in his or her office, and that the existing one, which apparently has been in use for decades, needed to be replaced, spending this much money while simultaneously spending what seems like an absurd amount of money for table and chairs seems utterly absurd. Additionally, the fact that agency rules and existing laws were apparently being willfully ignored during the procurement process and that career agency employees were being punished for questioning the expenditure are particularly troubling.
As for Carson essentially blaming the whole thing on his wife, I hope he has a comfortable couch at home.