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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.
Responding to a February New York Times report on the purchase of a custom hardwood table, hutch and chairs for his Washington office, Carson said his poor interior decorating choices caused him to defer the decision to his wife, Lacena "Candy" Carson.
"When I assumed the position I was told that traditionally secretaries redecorate their offices," Carson explained to the budget committee Tuesday. "You know, I'm not really big into decorating. If it were up to me, my office would probably look like a hospital waiting room. At any rate, I invited my wife in to come help me."
Carson, a former Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon prior to his 2017 appointment as HUD Secretary by President Donald Trump, detailed how someone later sat in one of the chairs, causing nails to protrude from the collapsed woodwork. Carson said he was told to fix the furniture issue for safety reasons.
“I asked my wife also to help me with that," Carson said. "They showed us some catalogs. The prices were beyond what I wanted to pay and I made it clear that just didn't seem right to me. I left it with my wife, I said 'help choose something.'"
Carson blamed his busy schedule and having to run “from place to place” while heading HUD as part of the reason he overlooked the expensive, taxpayer-paid purchase that sparked backlash when revealed by the New York Times in February. Several days after the purchase was unearthed, Carson announced he canceled the order and “made it known [he] was not happy about the prices being charged” in the catalogs his wife was perusing.
"I wasn't that concerned about furniture. The next thing that I quite frankly heard about it was this $31,000 table had been bought. I said 'What the heck is this all about?'" Carson said. "I investigated and I immediately had it canceled."
HUD officials did not request congressional approval for the purchase of the dapper dining set, which federal law states must be approved in the offices of agency heads if it exceeds $5,000.
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