Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson’s first appearance before the Democratic-led House Financial Services Committee was a little more contentious than his run-ins with lawmakers were when Republicans controlled the chamber. The hearing began with Chairwoman Maxine Waters accusing HUD of “actively causing harm” under Trump, citing the agency’s “outrageous plan” to cut rental assistance, major delays in disaster aid to Puerto Rico, and its “cruel proposal” to prohibit undocumented immigrants from living in subsidized housing.
Soon after, it was first-term Congresswoman Katie Porter’s turn to question the HUD secretary, a back-and-forth that did not help the perception that Carson doesn’t know what he’s doing. Porter asked Carson about real-estate-owned homes — known as REO — which are houses acquired by HUD after a person forecloses on a mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Agency, which is a subset of HUD. Porter wanted to know why foreclosure rates for these homes were higher than those not insured by the FHA, while Carson wanted to know why she was asking about a sleeve of cookies.
Other than the apparent mondegreen of “an REO” and “an Oreo,” one might expect the HUD secretary to assume that the House Financial Services Committee is speaking about a concerning trend in his department, not a small sandwich cookie. But as The Atlantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere notes, one might also expect the HUD secretary not to respond with a joke after getting “confused by a basic housing term related to foreclosures and asset management.”