Ben Carson’s War on HUD

The many ways Ben Carson has bumbled through his time in Trump’s Cabinet.

Mother Jones illustration; US Department of Housing and Urban Development

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Ben Carson was an unlikely choice to take over the nation’s housing department. The neurosurgeon turned failed GOP presidential candidate reportedly rejected President Donald Trump’s initial offer to serve as secretary of health and human services but signed up when offered the housing gig. “Our inner cities are in terrible shape,” Carson said at the time. “And they definitely need some real attention.” But so far, Carson is best known for getting trapped in an elevator, bumbling through a series of scandals, and ordering a very expensive dining-room table.

July 23, 2015: Carson calls President Barack Obama’s new rule to desegregate housing “social engineering.”

November 15, 2016: After reports that Carson turned down an offer from Trump to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, his business manager and confidant Armstrong Williams tells the Hill, “Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience, he’s never run a federal agency. The last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency.”

March 2, 2017: Carson is sworn in as HUD secretary.

April 12, 2017: Firefighters rescue Carson and six other officials from a broken elevator in an affordable housing complex in Miami.

May 3, 2017: The New York Times quotes Carson as saying that compassion means not providing “a comfortable setting that would make somebody want to say: ‘I’ll just stay here. They will take care of me.’”

May 24, 2017: Carson says in a radio interview that “poverty, to a large extent, is a state of mind.”

July 6, 2017: HUD’s deputy general counsel for operations writes a memo raising concerns that Carson’s decision to let his son and daughter-in-law help organize his Baltimore “listening tour” ran afoul of federal ethics rules.

December 23, 2017: A federal court strikes down Carson’s attempt to undo an Obama-era program that makes it easier to use housing vouchers in affluent neighborhoods.

January 5, 2018: Carson delays, until 2020, enforcement of the signature Obama-era fair housing rule requiring communities to analyze housing segregation and submit plans to reverse it.

February 20, 2018: Asked whether HUD is investigating Carson’s family, a spokesman for HUD’s inspector general says, “It’s an open matter.”

February 27, 2018: The Guardian reports that a HUD senior career official was demoted and replaced with a Trump appointee after refusing to approve Carson’s request for a $31,000 dining set. The legal limit for office decor is $5,000.

March 5, 2018: A HUD internal memo indicates the agency will remove anti-­discrimination language from its mission statement. The same day, the New York Times quotes Carson as saying, “There are more complexities here than in brain surgery. Doing this job is going to be a very intricate process.”

May 8, 2018: Housing advocates sue Carson and HUD for delaying the Obama-era anti-discrimination rule.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend