Ben Carson has been claiming that he had no involvement in the selecting of the $31k dining set that was purchased for the Department of Housing and Urban Development dining room. However, newly released emails are throwing a little doubt on those claims.
One of the August emails from a staffer has the subject line “Secretary’s dining room set needed,” and the body of the email refers to “printouts of the furniture the Secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out.”
Last month, the HUD spokesman, Raffi Williams, denied that the Carsons had any involvement in the furniture selection saying, “Mrs. Carson and the secretary had no awareness that the table was being purchased.” He went on to blame a staffer for the purchase.
Carson spoke about the issue a few days later feigning surprise at the exorbitant price of the dining set, and CNN reported that the order was canceled on March 1. Although the spokesman had already claimed the couple knew nothing of the furniture purchase, Carson made a contradictory statement saying, “I briefly looked at catalogs for the dining furniture and was shocked by the cost of the furniture. My wife also looked at catalogs and wanted to be sure that the color of the chair fabric of any set that was chosen matched the rest of the decour.”
Williams backtracked on his previous claim that the Carsons knew nothing of the purchase to saying they made selections between options submitted by staffers. It is quite the change from earlier statement the department made:
"Neither one of them knew this purchase was being made. The secretary knew that the table and chairs were old because somebody fell out of a chair once. That's literally it. So they had nothing to do with the purchase, nothing to do with anything around that."
One of the newly released emails is about scheduling the interior decorator and is addressed to Mrs. Carson, it reads “Hi Mrs. Carson! There is a designer who will be in town next week on the 15th-17th to look at possibly redecorating the Secretary's office and bringing in new furniture. Are you available on any of those dates and would you like to come in and have input on the redecorating?"
For two people that had “zero awareness” of the furniture in the first place, they sure seem to be having an awful lot of discussion with the staff about the purchase.