HUD Secretary Ben Carson defends his Oreo gaffe and blames people for trying to 'ridicule' him, saying 'of course' he knows what an REO is

Ben CarsonBen Carson.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

  • Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson underplayed his "REO" gaffe during a congressional hearing and claimed the incident was attributed to partisan attempts "to ridicule people."
  • "We throw around acronyms all the time, particularly in government," Carson said in an interview with The Hill. "And you don't really even think about what do the letters mean? But you know what the things is."
  • "Of course, you know what an REO is," Carson said. "Of course, you know what the foreclosure portfolio is."
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Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson downplayed his "REO" gaffe during a congressional hearing on Tuesday and claimed the incident was attributed to partisan attempts "to ridicule people."

"We throw around acronyms all the time, particularly in government," Carson said in an interview with The Hill. "And you don't really even think about what do the letters mean? But you know what the things is."

"Of course, you know what an REO is," Carson continued. "Of course, you know what the foreclosure portfolio is."

Carson's testimony during a House Financial Services committee hearing on Tuesday became viral after he appeared to be confused with a basic acronym used for foreclosures in the real-estate industry.

Democratic Rep. Katie Porter of California asked if Carson knew of REO rates, or real-estate owned rates, to which Carson answered by referencing the Oreo cookie.

"Do you know what an REO is?" Porter asked Carson.

"An Oreo?" Carson said.

"No. Not an Oreo," Porter answered. "An R-E-O. An R-E-O."

Carson later shrugged off the exchange with a lighthearted picture on him with a package of Oreos.

"OH, REO! Thanks, [Rep. Katie Porter]," Carson said in a tweet. "Enjoying a few post-hearing snacks. Sending some your way!"

Read more: HUD Secretary Ben Carson sent a pack of Oreos to a lawmaker after he flubbed a question about REOs during a congressional hearing

Carson suggested the entire incident was fueled by a partisan divide.

The HUD secretary was appointed by President Donald Trump and has been criticized for lacking experience in the housing industry. A new HUD rule is also under scrutiny for proposing that government shelters may be allowed to regulate its inhabitants based on their sexual orientation.

"They try take those moments to ridicule people, because they've probably read Saul Alinsky's book and they know that's one of the rules," Carson said to The Hill. "It's just so silly."

Alinsky, a social activist and community organizer, who advocated for impoverished communities, wrote books like "Reveille for Radicals."

"I just hope for the sake of our young people and for the sake of our nation in general that we can move beyond the silliness and actually begin to address the problems that affect us," he added.

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