Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson on Tuesday morning defended his role in the purchase of a $31,000 dining set for his office suite, claiming that he had little involvement in the decision-making process.
Carson told members of the House Appropriations Committee that he was too busy running the department to keep track of plans to purchase a new dining set and that he wasn’t “concerned” about the furniture.
“If it was up to me, my office would probably look like a hospital waiting room,” he told the committee.
Carson said that when he was informed that the dining set needed to be replaced because a chair collapsed and someone was stuck with a nail, he asked his wife to help. When they were shown catalogues, Carson says he was unhappy with the options.
“The prices were beyond what I wanted to pay. I made it clear that that just didn’t seem right to me,” he said.
Carson said Tuesday that he was not involved in the rest of the process and delegated to his wife, Candy Carson.
“I left it with my wife,” he told the committee.
The next Carson heard about the dining set was that a $31,000 set had been ordered, he told the committee. He said he immediately had it cancelled.
“I thought that that was excessive,” Carson said.
Asked about a statement from his spokesman shortly after the story on the dining set broke that the Carsons were not involved in the purchase, Carson said he could not speak for others’ statements and argued that he has always been truthful about his involvement.
Carson also addressed brochures that include guidelines for homeless shelters on how to prevent discrimination against transgender individuals that were taken off the HUD website last year. Carson said that he and HUD general counsel were looking over the brochure to ensure the “equal rights for the women in the shelters and shelters where there are men and their equal rights.”
“We want to look at things that really provide for everybody and doesn’t impede the rights of one for the sake of the other. It’s a complex issue,” he said.
Asked how protecting the rights of transgender individuals could impact others’ rights, Carson said that “there are some women who said they were not comfortable with the idea of being in a shelter, being in a shower, and somebody who had a very different anatomy.”