On Tuesday, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson attended a hearing on Capitol Hill. Carson was questioned by the House Financial Services Committee, but one question from Rep. Katie Porter (D-California) lead to another viral sensation on behalf of Carson.

Porter asked the HUD head about REOs, which stands for “real estate owned.” The term is used to describe property that has reverted back to the ownership of a bank or lender after an unsuccessful auction. Carson, however, misunderstood Porter’s question, thinking she instead was asking a question pertaining to Nabisco’s Oreo cookies.


“An Oreo?” Carson said in response to Porter’s inquiry, seemingly unsure if he heard her correctly. “No, not an Oreo,” the Democrat retorted. “An R-E-O,” spelling out the term for him. The exchanged continued, with Carson appearing to be ignorant of the phrase’s meaning. Carson eventually correctly guessed the first two letters stood for “real estate,” spurring Porter to ask, “What does the O stand for?”


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“Organization?” Carson offered. Porter swiftly corrected him: “Owned. ‘Real estate owned.’ That’s what happens when a property goes into foreclosure. We call it an REO.” She then explained the concept to Carson, discussing how loans from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) become REOs more frequently than those by Freddie Mac or Freddie Mae. Porter concluded that people with FHA loans are statistically more likely to lose their houses, which she then grilled Carson on.

Carson, self-aware enough to acknowledge his mistake, posted two photos on Twitter later in the day, both showing a package of the chocolate cookies. The first picture depicts the Oreos on a table alongside a handwritten note to Porter. It reads, “Thanks for your part in today’s hearing. Hope you like the OREO(s).” The second photo is of a smiling Carson holding the cookies.

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