Skip to Main

May 22, 2019

WGBH: Rep. Ayanna Pressley: Ben Carson Was ‘Smug And Dismissive’ During Questioning

Rep. Ayanna Pressley went head to head with President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Housing and Human Development Ben Carson at a congressional hearing Tuesday.

Carson testified before Rep. Maxine Waters’ (D-CA) Financial Services Committee and faced questions about a plan HUD announced last year to increase rent for subsidized housing.

Pressley criticized Carson for defending a proposed HUD plan that would cut the housing budget by 16.4 percent and remove public housing assistance for undocumented immigrants.

“Yes or no — do you believe the substandard housing conditions pose a risk to tenants’ mental or physical health?” Pressley asked during the hearing. Carson replied, “you already know the answer to that,” and Pressley asked again, “Yes or no?”

Carson expressed confusion about a acronym used to describe foreclosed properties, in an exchange with Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA). “Do you know what an REO is?” Porter asked. “An oreo?” Carson replied.

Later, Carson posted a tweet making light of the situation with a picture of himself holding up a container of the chocolate cookies. “OH, REO! Thanks, @RepKatiePorter,” the tweet reads. “Enjoying a few post-hearing snacks. Sending some your way!”

In a later phone interview with WGBH News, Pressley said she was disappointed by the exchange.

“I found him to be smug and dismissive,” she said. “Later he posted some videos making light of a lot of questioning offered by my colleague Katie Porter on a very serious issue, that ultimately resulted in the displacement of families.”

Massachusetts, according to state data, has the largest public housing stock in New England. Pressley’s district is a minority-majority district with a sizable population of foreign-born residents. She says Carson’s proposed HUD plans would hurt her district and could be particularly harmful to immigrants.

“This is certainly an issue of consequence to the Massachusetts 7th Congressional District,” she said. “[It’s a] lack of leadership, the callousness, the lack of compassion and the lack of a budget that reflects the needs of the crumbling infrastructure of public housing.”

Pressley said Carson refused to take accountability for his administration during the hearing.

“Secretary Carson proved that he is profoundly unqualified to lead this agency overseeing our nation’s crumbling housing stock,” she said.

Carson’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.