Ben Carson, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, suggested his wife was responsible for the purchase of a $31,000 dining set for his office during his testimony before a House committee Tuesday.
Carson said his wife selected the “style and color” for the dining set and indicated the order was placed before he became aware of the price, at which point he “immediately” cancelled the purchase.
“I left it with my wife,” he said. “The next thing that I, quite frankly, heard about it was that this $31,000 table had been bought.”
Carson defended the purchase in the Tuesday committee hearing, citing safety concerns that arose after one dining-room chair collapsed when sat on.
“People were stuck by nails, and a chair had collapsed with someone sitting in it,” Carson said, likely referring to an email sent by a senior aide last summer describing concerns with the existing furniture.
After initially denying that Carson or his wife, Candy, were involved in the purchase in any capacity, a HUD spokesman acknowledged their role earlier this month after internal emails revealed they were both consulted.
Representative Trey Gowdy (R., S.C.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, launched an investigation of the purchase in February after a former top HUD official, Helen Foster, filed a formal complaint regarding the purchase.
Carson told congressional investigators that the dining-set purchase provided an “opportunity” for the agency to examine their “internal controls,” which, he said, were improved after the acquisition of a new chief financial officer.
Senior White House aides are furious about the negative coverage the purchase has received and have intervened to help the HUD communications staff shape the narrative, according to CNN.
photo: Republican presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson stands with his wife Candy as he officially launches his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in Detroit, Michigan, May 4, 2015. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)