Ben Carson
Credit: Gage Skidmore/flickr

I know it’s silly of me to keep focusing on Ben Carson’s dining room set, but I can’t help myself. He’s been caught in a giant lie.

Newly released emails cast doubt on claims by Secretary Ben Carson and his spokesman that he had little or no involvement in the purchase of a $31,000 furniture set for his Department of Housing and Urban Development dining room.

The documents were released following a Freedom of Information Act request from American Oversight, a liberal watchdog group led by former Obama administration officials, and offer a snapshot into how the agency acquired the furniture.

HUD spokesman Raffi Williams initially denied the Carsons had any involvement in the dining set selection.
“Mrs. Carson and the secretary had no awareness that the table was being purchased,” he told CNN last month.

A HUD spokesman went further at the time, blaming the purchase on an unnamed career staffer. “The secretary did not order a new table. The table was ordered by the career staffers in charge of the building,” he said.

The truth is completely different. They could have repaired the rickety chairs. They got a quote for $1,100 to do just that. Instead, they decided to go for a total redecoration.

Several months after considering repairs to the dining set in early August, HUD’s scheduling office reached out to Candy Carson, the secretary’s wife.

“Hi Mrs. Carson!” the scheduler wrote. “There is a designer who will be in town next week on the 15th-17th to look at possibly redecorating the Secretary’s office and bringing in new furniture. Are you available on any of those dates and would you like to come in and have input on the redecorating?”

It even looks like Ben Carson wanted some bar carts, but I guess that wasn’t in the budget.

The career administration staffer sent the quote to Carson’s office, specifically Carson’s chief of staff and his executive assistant, casting further doubt on the agency’s assertion that the purchase was made entirely by career staff.

“Below is the price quote for all of the dining room furniture. I think this is a very reasonable price and the funds are available,” the career official wrote.

“We also have a justification for the cost (as you know, the furniture hasn’t been changed since 1988) so this should not be a problem,” she added.

In one email chain, the interior designer offered HUD officials links to two different bar carts and a bar cabinet that did not end up being part of the final purchase. An email shows the serving cart options came at the request of “leadership,” but it doesn’t specify who specifically made the request.

This obviously isn’t a frugal use of taxpayer dollars, but it doesn’t really concern me that they wanted to spruce up the place a bit. What bothers me is the lying and the attempt to blame career staff for decisions made by Secretary Carson and his wife.

Ben Carson carries himself like he’s a very pious man with a lot of personal rectitude, but he doesn’t act that way if you ask me.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at