Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said he will leave office at the end of President Donald Trump’s first term, saying he could have a greater impact in the private sector.
“I will certainly finish out this term,” Carson told Newsmax TV’s John Gizzi in an interview on Monday night.
Pressed on whether he would be interested in serving during a second Trump term, Carson responded, “I would be interested in returning to the private sector, because I think you have just as much influence — maybe more — there.”
He released a statement late Monday in response to questions about his comments, saying he “always stand[s] ready to serve this great President and the United States of America.”
Carson, who oversaw a campaign to weaken fair housing enforcement and advocated dramatic budget cuts at the department, is the only black member of Trump’s cabinet – a point Gizzi raised as he asked him about former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen telling Congress last week that Trump is a racist.
“I think Cohen is trying to ingratiate himself to the people who hate Trump,” Carson said. “I’ve never seen anything that even remotely would remind me of racists, and believe me, I recognize a racist when I see them.”
Carson drew criticism from Democrats for dialing back the department’s efforts to fight housing discrimination after postponing the implementation of the Obama-era Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule, a move that prompted civil rights groups to file suit.
“I don’t have any problem with affirmative action or integration — I have no problem with that at all,” Carson said during his Senate confirmation hearing in 2017. “But I do have a problem with people on high dictating it when they have no idea what’s going on in an area.”
Last year, HUD leaders also floated changing the mission statement to omit references to discrimination and inclusivity, provoking an outcry among housing advocates on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.
Carson, a former neurosurgeon, has often seemed most at home talking about the health effects of substandard housing, riffing on the impacts of lead paint and mold on the developing brain.