The lawmakers, perhaps in coordination or perhaps by chance, used a committee hearing Tuesday to repeatedly grill the secretary of Housing and Urban Development on the meaning of certain abbreviations -- and then mocked him for not knowing.
“I’d also like for you to get back to me – if you don’t mind – to explain the disparity in REO rates. Do you know what an REO is?” California Democratic Rep. Katie Porter asked.
Carson responded, "OREO?"
“No, not an Oreo. An REO,” Porter shot back, explaining she was asking about real-estate owned properties.
Shortly afterward, her office captured the exchange for Twitter posterity.
“I asked @SecretaryCarson about REOs - a basic term related to foreclosure - at a hearing today,” she tweeted. “He thought I was referring to a chocolate sandwich cookie. No, really.”
The REO term refers to properties owned by lenders like a bank or government. Carson indicated during the awkward exchange that he knew the abbreviation was about "real estate." But pressed by the lawmaker on what the "O" in the abbreviation stood for, Carson incorrectly said the word "organization" instead of "owned."
Carson later razzed the congresswoman on Twitter, posting a photo of a package of Oreos and saying, "OH, REO! Thanks, @RepKatiePorter. Enjoying a few post-hearing snacks. Sending some your way!"
And, Tuesday evening, the cookie's Twitter handle weighed in: “𝗥𝗘𝗢 stands for '𝗥eally 𝗘xcellent 𝗢REO (cookie).' Everyone knows that.”
Yet this wasn’t the only instance Tuesday where Carson was quizzed on his agency lexicon. At another point, Ohio Rep. Joyce Beatty asked Carson to discuss “OMWI.”
Their discourse degenerated from there.
“Are you familiar with OMWI and what it is?” Beatty asked.
Carson replied: "With who?"
"OMWI," she said.
"Amway?" Carson asked, referring to the marketing company.
"OMWI,” Beatty said. “Come on Mr. Secretary. Now, I asked you this when you were here last year.”
Beatty eventually explained that she was referring to an Office of Minority and Women Inclusion.
Beatty asked for Carson to name who leads that office; Carson said he couldn’t give her a name.
“Will you do me a favor, will you find out and would you send me a note back so we don’t ever have to repeat this again?” she said.
But a Republican on the committee, New York Rep. Lee Zeldin, called Beatty’s question to Carson “unfair,” explaining HUD doesn't have such an office.
"The reason why you wouldn't recognize the term OMWI in HUD is that HUD doesn't have OMWI,” Zeldin said, adding that it’s “pretty unfair question to ask you who the director is of an entity that obviously doesn't exist within HUD."