Democrats press Carson after HUD hires aide who authored racist blog posts

Democrats press Carson after HUD hires aide who authored racist blog posts
© Aaron Schwartz

Six Democratic senators are pressuring Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonBen Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist Senior Trump administration official to leave post next week Harris, Ocasio-Cortez pitch bill to increase housing assistance for individuals with criminal record MORE on his department’s hiring of a former consumer bureau official under investigation for a series of racist blog posts.

The senators asked the secretary in a letter released Monday to explain why and how Eric Blankenstein was hired to a legal position at HUD despite controversies that emerged in his previous job.

“In our country, private citizens may espouse whatever views they have, even abhorrent ones. What they do not have a right to is a six-figure federal job,” wrote the senators, all members of the Senate Banking Committee.

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“HUD has an important mission to ‘create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all,’ ” they continued. “It needs employees that can carry out and bolster that mission, not ones that call HUD’s commitment to it into question.” 

The signatories included Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment On The Money: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency | Tech giants on defensive at antitrust hearing | Democrats ask Labor Department to investigate Amazon warehouses Hillicon Valley: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency plan | Trump vows to 'take a look' at Google's ties to China | Google denies working with China's military | Tech execs on defensive at antitrust hearing | Bill would bar business with Huawei MORE (Ohio), the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, along with Democratic Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report Dem senators demand GOP judicial group discloses donors Senate passes .5B border bill, setting up fight with House MORE (N.J.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenNew CDC overdose estimates are nothing to celebrate 2020 Democrats react to 'send her back' chants at Trump rally Democratic Houston councilwoman announces Senate bid MORE (Mass.), Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedDemocrats warm to idea of studying reparations Trump's pick to lead Pentagon glides through confirmation hearing Trump says US will not sell Turkey F-35s after Russian missile defense system purchase MORE (R.I.), Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment Democrat Sherrod Brown torches Facebook at hearing: They 'broke journalism,' 'helped incite a genocide' House Democrat's bill would facilitate electric car chargers at all national parks MORE (Nev.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenOvernight Energy: USDA expected to lose two-thirds of research staff in move west | EPA hails Trump's work on reducing air pollution | Agency eyes reducing inspections of nuclear reactors USDA expected to lose two-thirds of research staff in move to Kansas City Lawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens MORE (Md.).

The senators asked Carson to explain why Blankenstein had been hired, whether the White House had any role in his hiring, and how much the secretary knew about Blankenstein’s writings.

"We all are human, we all make mistakes and learn from them- especially 15 years later- and we all deserve second chances," Carson said in a statement to The Hill. "Eric’s impressive career and experience will be a great asset to the agency.”

Blankenstein joined HUD in June as a senior counsel overseeing matters involving Ginnie Mae, a government-backed firm that guarantees mortgage-backed securities. He previously served as a policy director at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) until May

Blankenstein sparked a rebellion at the CFPB in September when The Washington Post revealed anonymous, racist blog posts he wrote in 2004, long before his appointment to the agency. In those writings, Blankenstein argued that the majority reported hate crimes were likely hoaxes and questioned whether using the “n-word” was inherently racist. 

Several senior CFPB officials and Democratic lawmakers called for Blankenstein’s firing after the emergence of his blog posts.

Former acting CFPB Director Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump's new labor chief alarms Democrats, unions The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke Acosta out as Trump Labor secretary MORE declined to penalize Blankenstein, whom he appointed to the bureau in December 2017. But Mulvaney later asked the Federal Reserve inspector general, which also covers the CFPB, to investigate the situation.