Ben Carson Faces Questions on PBS NewsHour About Frequent Travel and Attempted Dining Set Purchase

On Tuesday, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson appeared on PBS NewsHour and answered questions from correspondent Yamiche Alcindor about records American Oversight uncovered — including 2017 calendars showing multiple long weekends in Florida and emails revealing his involvement in the selection of a $31,000 dining set.

“I want to ask you about the group, the watchdog group American Oversight,” Alcindor said during the interview. “They got a hold of some of your schedules. … They also had emails that showed that you and your wife were directly involved in purchasing a $31,000 dining room set for your office.”

Last week, NBC reported on Carson’s 2017 schedule, which we obtained through FOIA litigation and showed frequent weekend trips to his mansion in Florida, sometimes leaving work early on Fridays or taking the day off entirely. Carson’s defense, when asked by Alcindor about criticism that his schedule was “really not aligning with the mission of HUD,” was to point out that members of Congress frequently go home (to their districts) on the weekend, and it “wouldn’t be any different for a cabinet member.”

Carson’s calendars also show that his senior staff only met once a week, and that he met with Trump supporter and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell in May 2017. See Ben Carson’s full calendars here.

In March 2018, following reports that Carson had attempted to purchase a $31,000 dining set for his office suite, American Oversight sued and obtained records of Carson’s office renovation expenses. In initial news reports, Carson claimed that he knew nothing about the furniture order, but the records we uncovered included an email from former HUD Chief of Staff Sheila Greenwood referencing “the furniture the Secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out.”

Carson subsequently changed his story and attempted to fully blame his wife for the spending. In this week’s PBS interview, Carson updated his version of events and claimed that the furniture was from “the government catalog that they ask you to choose from,” and that the scandal was “kind of hilarious” and a result of people wanting to create the narrative of “‘You’re cutting the budget on poor people, and you’re buying expensive furniture.’” He added that American Oversight and others “would be extraordinarily wrong” to believe that narrative. Of course, he has proposed raising public housing rent, and we did obtain the invoice for the dining set.

“If that’s all they have got to complain about, I think we’re in pretty good shape,” Carson said about his frequent Friday afternoons off. But Carson has not addressed the numerous other investigations American Oversight has conducted into his leadership at HUD. We’ve been investigating his family’s involvement at the agency — including that of his son, Ben Carson Jr., who has attempted to use his influence at HUD to benefit his personal business.

Carson may say that American Oversight is “creat[ing] these narratives,” but the records we’ve uncovered speak for themselves.