Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson told the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday that it was his wife, Candy, who purchased the $31,000 dining set for his office on taxpayers' dime.
Mr. Carson, appearing before Congress for the first time since the purchase of the table, chairs and hutch was made public, appeared annoyed when a Democrat at the hearing suggested that he was guilty of "ethical lapses" and turning over key decisions to members of his family.
"When I assumed the position I was told that, traditionally, secretaries redecorate their offices", Carson told the committee.
"It's my understanding that the facilities people felt that the dining room table was actually unsafe", he told a House Appropriations subcommittee.
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Pressed by Quigley as to how protecting transgender individuals would infringe on the rights of others, Carson said, "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". He said he didn't know about the price until he became aware of it through news reports, and that he immediately ordered the cancellation of the purchase after he learned of the cost.
Internal HUD emails indicate that at least one official had expressed concern that a chair could collapse and cause "embarrassment" for the hypothetical victim, but no publicly-released evidence indicates that such a disaster ever occurred. "You know I'm not really big into decorating. I do not intend to be responsible for what anybody else said", Carson said.
Carson was also asked about inconsistencies in the messaging from the agency regarding how involved he and his wife were in the process to purchase the dining set compared to what internal HUD emails indicate.
That detail came later, when Carson, claiming that he had had too much on his agenda to worry about furniture selection, smiled earnestly at the assembled panel and proceeded to throw his wife of more than four decades under the bus. "I made it clear that didn't seem right to me". The next thing that I, quite frankly, heard about it is that this $31,000 table had been bought. Not that we don't need the furniture, but I thought that that was excessive. "I said help choose something". "I would like to work with you on this and I would be particularly interested in your ideals on how we protect the rights of all the people involved".