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 Carson 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.{mosads}

“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 Brown (Ohio), the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, along with Democratic Sens. Bob Menendez (N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.) and Chris Van Hollen (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 Mulvaney 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. 

Tags Ben Carson Bob Menendez Catherine Cortez Masto Chris Van Hollen Elizabeth Warren Jack Reed Mick Mulvaney Sherrod Brown
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