WASHINGTON – Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson responded to a video that went viral yesterday of him appearing to mix up a real estate term, REO, and Oreo, the sandwich cookie. In an interview with Fox Business Network’s Varney and Co., he told the host Stuart Varney that he “was having difficulty hearing” during the committee hearing.
Carson went on to say that “of course I’m very familiar with foreclosed properties and with REOs,” citing his upbringing in Detroit to make clear that he had grown up among many foreclosed properties.
“I’ve read extensively about them, knew about them even as a teenager there was a lot of blighted areas in Detroit where I grew up."
A video of Carson went viral on Tuesday after Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., questioned Carson about disparities in foreclosure rates among properties granted loans by the Federal Housing Administration. Carson appeared not to know the term that Porter was talking about, instead asking about Oreos, the snack cookie.
Carson also took criticism from House Democrats for his office’s attempts to remove undocumented immigrants from subsidized housing.
On Fox Business, Carson defended his remarks yesterday that “It’s not that we’re cruel, mean-hearted. It’s that we are logical” in reference to that proposal.
”Well you know, we have an obligation to follow the law. And Section 214 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1980 says specifically that the HUD Secretary may not support housing for people who are not here legally,” Carson explained on Fox. “So, what they’re asking me to do is violate the law. They have the ability to change the law “
Sunia Zaterman, the Executive Director of the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, told USA TODAY that the 1980 law “explicitly authorizes both those with eligible and ineligible immigration status to occupy units in ‘covered housing programs.’”
“This is a punitive act. Even HUD’s justification laid out the negative impacts of doing this on the households themselves which often include children that are eligible and parents and heads of household who are not,” she continued. “So we’re really talking about a policy that intentionally separates families, which is contrary to the intent of the 1980 law.”
Following the hearing, Carson sent a family-sized box of “double stuf” Oreos to Porter and invited her to speak with his staff at HUD about the issue.
Porter was skeptical of Carson's explanation, saying in a statement to USA TODAY that "it's very clear that the Secretary was not familiar with the terminology."
"I’m glad that he’s taken the time to read about the critically necessary reforms to the Federal Housing Authority’s foreclosure and conveyance processes," she said. "I worked on exactly these issues until the day I was sworn into Congress; I don’t need to be "'brought up to date.'"
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Carson says he had 'difficulty hearing' during viral Oreo testimony, defends HUD proposals