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 CarsonYes, President Trump, we do have a homelessness crisis and you're making it harder for us to address New HUD rule would eliminate housing stability for thousands of students Carson defends transgender comments, hits media for 'mischaracterizations' 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 BrownBlood cancer patients deserve equal access to the cure Trump admin abruptly delays funding for human trafficking victims: report Overnight Energy: Lawmakers show irritation over withheld Interior documents | Republican offers bipartisan carbon tax bill | Scientists booted from EPA panel form new group MORE (Ohio), the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, along with Democratic Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezRand Paul calls for probe of Democrats over Ukraine letter Senators ask Treasury to probe Brazilian meatpacker with major US footprint Top Foreign Relations Democrat calls on Pompeo to recuse himself from Ukraine matters MORE (N.J.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSanders can gain ground by zeroing in on corruption Biden praises Buttigieg for criticizing GOP attacks: 'That's a good man' Warren enters crucial debate with big momentum MORE (Mass.), Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedDemocrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Congress set for showdown with Trump over Kurds Top Democrats warn against withdrawing from treaty that allows observation flights over Russia MORE (R.I.), Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoDemocrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Buttigieg plans sharper distinctions with Warren, Sanders First House Republican backs impeachment inquiry MORE (Nev.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenFurious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Democrats to offer resolution demanding Trump reverse Syria decision White House officials stand by Syria withdrawal, sanctions delay amid bipartisan pushback 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 MulvaneyHillicon Valley: Trump official declines to testify on trade protections for tech | Senators call for better info-sharing on supply chain threats | Apple pulls app after Chinese pressure Overnight Energy: Dems subpoena Perry in impeachment inquiry | EPA to overhaul rules on lead contamination tests | Commerce staff wrote statement rebuking weather service for contradicting Trump Commerce staff drafted statement rebuking weather service for contradicting Trump's hurricane predictions 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.