They Were 'Surprised' by $31K HUD Buy. Email Says Otherwise

CNN has correspondence noting HUD furniture that 'the Secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 14, 2018 9:30 AM CDT
Candy Carson, right, joins her husband, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, on stage during a town hall meeting on Feb. 21, 2016, in Reno, Nev.   (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

(Newser) – A HUD spokesman said Secretary Ben Carson and his wife, Candy, had "zero awareness" about an eyebrow-raising $31,000 order for a dining room set that came to light last month, and Carson even said he'd try to cancel the purchase. But thanks to a FOIA request, CNN now has its hands on an email suggesting not only did the Carsons know about the furniture—they're the ones who chose it. The August email from someone named as a "career administration staffer" to Carson's assistant features the subject line "Secretary's dining room set needed," with text referring to "printouts of the furniture the Secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out." HUD reps had originally pushed back by saying "career staffers" at the department had placed the order. "Mrs. Carson and the secretary had no awareness that the table was being purchased," HUD spokesman Raffi Williams said.

Carson's statement at the time—and Bible quote—said he'd "briefly looked at catalogs for dining furniture" (as did Candy Carson, to make sure the correct colors were selected) and "was shocked by the cost of the furniture." He added he was told he had to use $25,000 allotted in the budget or lose it, and that he was "surprised as anyone" when the total came to $31,000. Williams' only remarks to CNN on the new revelations: "When presented with options by professional staff, Mrs. Carson participated in the selection of specific styles." Meanwhile, the soundproof phone booth EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt had put into his office last fall is once again in the spotlight. Although the booth drew criticism for its reported $25,000 price tag, the Washington Post now tacks on another $18,000 for prep work—meaning it really cost $43,000. An EPA rep simply tells the Post: "This is old news."

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