HUD secretary Ben Carson is making a joke about his not knowing the difference between houses seized by banks and sandwich cookies.
During a House Financial Services Committee hearing Tuesday, California representative Katie Porter asked the former surgeon why it seemed homes bought with Federal loans were more frequently foreclosed on than those purchased through private lenders. Homes taken over by their lenders are called Real Estate Owned properties.
When Porter asked Carson if he was familiar with that term, the 67-year-old former neurosurgeon appointed by President Trump to run the department of Housing and Urban Development in March 2016 and approved by congress in March 2017, apparently had snacks on his mind.
"Do you know what an R.E.O. is?" Porter asked.
"An Oreo?" Carson responded.
The congresswoman walked Carson through the term, somewhat condescendingly.
"R, no not an Oreo. An R-E-O," she said.
A sheepish Carson took his best guess.
"Real Estate?" he replied.
"What's the O stand for?" Porter pushed.
"E-Organization?" guessed Carson, even seeming to struggle with the alphabet.
Porter later expressed her amazement on Twitter, where she posted video of the awkward exchange.
"I asked Secretary Carson about REOs — a basic term related to foreclosure — at a hearing today," she wrote. "He thought I was referring to a chocolate sandwich cookie. No, really."
Carson attempted to offset the incident with humor by tweeting that he was sending the congresswoman a package of Oreo cookies.
"OH, REO! Thanks," he tweeted at Porter. "Enjoying a few post-hearing snacks. Sending some your way!"
Twitter wasn't biting. Historian and author Kevin Kruse tweeted, "Yes, it's hysterical that you're almost comically ignorant about the basic issues involved in your position. Hilarious."
Comedian and "United Shades" host W. Kamau Bell tweeted that he, too, found nothing funny about Carson's flub.
"You are the worst of us," he wrote. "Ignorantly smirking your way through the hearing while people are losing their homes & homelessness is on the rise. Also the condescending way you talked to Rep. Katie Porter and Rep. (Ayanna) Pressley was sexist & beneath the dignity their office. & your joke sucks."
The appointment of Carson to run HUD has been highly controversial since the start.