As he jousted with Senate Democrats on Thursday during his confirmation hearing to become secretary of housing and urban development, Ben Carson affirmed his view that no group is entitled to an extra helping of equality.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, asked Carson about enforcing LGBT protections in the public housing sector.
“Of course, I would enforce all the laws of the land,” Carson responded. “Of course, I think all Americans should be protected by the law.”
Then he made one clarification.
“What I have said before is I don’t think anyone should get ‘extra rights,’” he said.
In his opening remarks to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, the former presidential candidate talked about his experience with “housing insecurity” and talked about the plight of his mother.
“She didn’t have any skills, basically a third-grade education, and we had no place to live,” he said. “She couldn’t afford the house so we ended up moving to Boston, moving in with relatives. So I have actually in my life understood what housing insecurity was. And we were there in Boston for a couple of years.”
He said his mother told him, “The person who has the most to do with determining where you live is you.”
In remarks prepared for the hearing, Carson said, “I want to help heal America’s divisiveness, and I think HUD is positioned to help in that healing. One of our biggest threats right now is this political division, racial conflict and class warfare. It is ripping this country apart.”
The renowned neurosurgeon said housing is the foundation for many things, including health.
“If we can give those people hope, then they can move out of those situations,” he testified. “But giving them hope starts with giving them a safe and productive environment.”
In response to a question about his criticism of aspects of the Fair Housing Rule that require a dispersion of low-income public housing throughout a community, he said his view on the rule “has been distorted by many people.”
“That act says that we want people who are receiving HUD grants to look around and see if they find anything that looks like discrimination and then we want them to come up with a solution,” Carson said. “They’re saying go and look for a problem and give us a solution.”
“We have people sitting around desks in Washington, D.C., deciding on how things should be done,” he said. “I don’t have any problem with affirmative action or integration. I have no problem with that at all. But I do have a problem with people on high dictating it when they have no idea what’s going on in an area.”
Carson faced tough questioning from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., about whether President-elect Donald Trump might benefit financially from any of HUD’s housing programs.
“The things that I do are driven by a sense of morals and values,” Carson responded. “I will absolutely not play favorites for anyone.”
Warren asked again for an assurance from Carson that neither Trump nor his family would benefit from HUD programs.
“It will not be my intention to benefit any American,” Carson said. “I will manage things in a way that benefits the American people.”
“If there happens to be an extra good program that works for millions of people and it turns out that someone that you’re targeting is going to gain 10 dollars from it … I think logic and common sense would be the best way” to make a decision, he said.
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