Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson seized the opportunity during a Wednesday morning interview on Fox Business Network to explain a blunder that took the media for a spin Tuesday afternoon.
While appearing in front of the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) quizzed Carson on the meaning of the acronym “REO.”
“An Oreo?” the secretary asked, referring to the popular sandwich cookie made by Nabisco; Porter kindly restated the three letters.
Then, Carson took a shot at the answer. He guessed incorrectly, answering, “Real estate e-organization.” (REO stands for “real estate owned.”)
On Wednesday’s “Varney & Co.” segment, Carson offered a new explanation: He was “having difficulty hearing” during his 3½ hours of congressional testimony.
“Of course I’m very familiar with foreclosed properties and with REOs,” Carson volunteered.
Porter wanted to know why the rate of REOs issued by the Federal Housing Administration is higher than that for other government-owned real estate. An REO refers to property owned by a bank or a lender after it has been foreclosed.
Carson did not address the question or explain the discrepancy. He sidestepped the issue with digs at the media and Democratic lawmakers.
“Some of the networks are only interested in those kinds of sound bites that they can use to ridicule,” Carson said, before ridiculing the freshman representative who questioned him on REOs.
“I suspect when Katie Porter was an expert in this area, things were very different,” he told the Fox Business host.
He invited Porter to let his staff “bring her up to date” and continued, “Maybe she would then be able to understand what’s going on.”
Before representing California’s 45th Congressional District, Porter was a law professor and appointed by then-California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris to oversee the state’s debt forgiveness program after the housing crisis. On MSNBC Wednesday, Porter said she was “in the trenches” during the financial meltdown and knows these issues firsthand.
“Respectfully, I was very clear with my words … and when I thought he couldn’t hear me, I took pains to politely correct him … to be sure we were on the same page so we could have a productive conversation if he knew what an REO was,” Porter told Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle. “It’s not a real estate organization; that’s not correct.”
She said for Carson to go on Fox “and say that I’m the one who doesn’t know what’s going on, and he’d ‘be happy to inform’ me is, frankly, very rich.”