Ben Carson Doesn't Feel 'Lonely' As Only Black Member of Trump's Cabinet, Suggests Race is 'Superficial'

U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Ben Carson this week discussed being the only African-American member of President Donald Trump's cabinet and defended the lack of diversity on the president's White House team.

During an interview on ABC News' The Briefing Room Wednesday, Carson was asked whether he felt "lonely" as the only African-American member of the president's cabinet.

"No, not at all. It goes back to being a neurosurgeon. You say, 'How does that work?'" Carson said. "Because as a neurosurgeon, I operated on people from every part of the world and when I open their head, I'm operating on the thing that makes them who they are."

"It's not the skin, the nose or eyes or the hair. It's the brain. I look at people, and I think about people at that level and not on a superficial basis," he added.

"No, not at all," Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson tells @devindwyer when asked if he feels "lonely" as the only African-American member of Trump's Cabinet, adding that he doesn't look at people "on a superficial basis"

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) June 5, 2019

Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, was confirmed as the HUD Secretary in March, 2017 by a 48-41 Senate vote. Prior to Trump announcing his nomination, Armstrong Williams, a spokesperson for Carson, suggested he would oppose being considered for any position in the Trump administration. "Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience, he's never run a federal agency. The last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency," she said.

Carson's nomination was considered controversial among critics, who believed that the 67-year-old lacked the necessary experience in government, housing or development for the role.

Following his appointment, Williams told NPR that Carson was qualified to manage the department due to his "his life growing up in subsidized housing, growing up in poor communities."

"He's never been disconnected from these inner cities and these people who live these lives," she said. "Dr. Carson may have aspired to become a world-renowned pediatric surgeon and a presidential candidate, but he's never lost the human touch with people."

Carson made headlines last month after Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) stumped him with a question about a basic housing term related to foreclosure and he confused it with and Oreo cookie. While testifying before the House Financial Services Committee, Porter asked Carson to explain the disparity in rates of REO, a type of property owned by a lender after a sale falls through at a foreclosure auction.

"Do you know what an REO is?" Porter asked, to which Carson responded: "An Oreo?"

"Owned. Real estate owned," she explained to Carson. "That's what happens when a property goes into foreclosure. We call it an REO, and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans have much higher REOs, that is they go to foreclosure rather than to loss mitigation or to non-foreclosure alternatives like short sales, than comparable loans at the GSE's (government-sponsored enterprises)."

When asked about the incident at his hearing by ABC News on Wednesday, Carson said he would rather focus on the "big policy issues" rather than engage in "'Ha! Gotcha!' stuff."

Following the hearing — after Porter, the official Oreo cookie account and Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren mocked Carson's blunder on Twitter — the HUD secretary poked fun of himself over the misunderstanding with a light-hearted tweet.

"OH, REO! Thanks, @RepKatiePorter. Enjoying a few post-hearing snacks. Sending some your way!," he wrote, alongside an image of himself posing with a double size packet of Oreo cookies.

Ben Carson Housing Secretary
Dr. Ben Carson attends the DC premiere of the film, "Death of a Nation," at E Street Cinema on August 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. Carson discussed being the only African-American member of Trump's cabinet with ABC News this week. Getty/Shannon Finney