Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) on Thursday called for Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson to resign, saying he is “inept” and lied to Congress about rule changes affecting transgender people.
On Tuesday, Carson appeared before the House Financial Services Committee, where he was pilloried for thinking that a committee member was asking about an “Oreo” when she used the acronym REO, which stands for “real-estate owned.” Carson later told Fox News he was “having difficulty hearing.”
In a less-noticed exchange, Wexton asked Carson about HUD’s plan for the “equal-access rule” — which, as the agency’s website explains, “ensures equal access to individuals in accordance with their gender identity” in HUD programs.
“Can you assure this committee . . . that HUD does not have any current or future plans to eliminate the equal-access rule?” Wexton asked Carson.
“I’m not going to say what we’ll do in the future about anything,” Carson said. “We don’t know what we’re going to do in the future.” He added: “I’m not currently anticipating changing the rule.”
The next day, however, HUD proposed a new rule that would allow federally funded shelters to refuse to admit people on religious grounds and force transgender women to use men’s bathrooms.
Wexton went on Twitter to criticize Carson.
“He either lied to Congress or has no idea what policies his agency is pursuing,” she tweeted Wednesday. “Either way, it’s unacceptable.”
On Thursday, she went further, saying Carson had “proven himself to be deceitful and inept.”
“As a former prosecutor, I take Congressional testimony very seriously,” she wrote. “This week, Secretary Carson lied to me and to Congress. He lied again when he called me to ‘clarify’ his testimony. . . . He should resign.”
In a statement, Carson said he thought Wexton “was asking whether HUD was going to take away the anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ persons in the rule.”
“We are not, as I stated,” the statement said. “I later realized she was asking a very technical question about the code of federal regulations on self-identified gender. I then called her to clarify that our intention is to stop treating sex and self-identified gender as the same, because I believe Washington shouldn’t be telling the rest of America how to determine whether someone is a man or a woman.”
Wexton, from Virginia’s 10th District, is known as a defender of LGBTQ rights, and she flies a transgender pride flag outside her office.
Jenna Portnoy contributed to this report.