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.


FILED UNDER: Bureaucracy, US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Kathy says:

    This is a small thing in the overall picture. What strikes me as stupid is the refusal to admit a mistake, return the money and move on.

  2. gVOR08 says:

    Perfect last sentence/sub-title.

  3. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Sleeping bag in the driveway. In the rain.

  4. CSK says:

    @Not the IT Dept.:

    Tonight, D.C. will be getting rain, snow, and sleet.

  5. MarkedMan says:

    Think about this for a moment. Imagine any job that you have ever held. Now imagine that you had mishandled funds. What feverish imaginings would lead you to believe that your best defense would be that you gave control over those funds to your spouse, who is not an employee?

  6. KM says:

    Because to Trumpkins, those “silly wimmins can’t handle money” and “the missus needs to be the one to make decisions on interior decorating or she’s going to be so unhappy” are valid excuses. If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, you hear? He *had* to let her do it but don’t blame her, it’s not like she knows anything about financial responsibility or government ethics, amirite?

    This is an Administration that touted the historic number of women they put in government by including spouses, remember? Carson totally expects this to fly. It’s not even the worst whopper he’s told in office.

  7. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: “Umm… Toto? I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.”

    to/du: What causes you to believe that “Imagine any job that you have ever held” is a standard that would apply here? Granted, it should, but somehow, it just doesn’t work that way.

  8. Tyrel says:

    @Not the IT Dept.: I was thinking the along same line, except that hopefully Ben has a big doghouse and a cuddly dog.
    As far as the “hospital waiting room”, does that include boring magazines, tv tuned to some junky news network, and a free coffee maker?

  9. Scott F. says:

    Because nothing says Party of Personal Responsibility like “It’s my wife’s fault.”

  10. Tyrell says:

    “Several decades old” would seem to be of historical value and should be restored.

  11. @Tyrell:

    According to reports, the old table and chairs were dilapidated and beyond repair or restoration. Also, it doesn’t sound like they were of any historical value.