Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson announced Monday his plans to step down from the administration and said he has witnessed nothing to suggest that the president is racist.
Speaking with Newsmax's John Gizzi Monday, Carson said, "I will certainly finish out this term, and I will always be interested in America being successful," when asked how long he plans on remaining on the job.
Asked directly if he was interested in serving a second term with the president, Carson said, "I would be interested in returning to the private sector, because I think you have just as much influence, maybe more, there."
Carson, who was also asked about his relationship with Trump and how often he speaks with the president, said he spoke with him as often as he needed to.
“It depends on what's going on ... basically, every time I need him, he's very available," he said.
When asked about recent testimony on the Hill made by the president’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, branding the president as a racist, Carson said he had not witnessed anything remotely racist about Trump.
"I think Cohen is trying to ingratiate himself to the people who hate Trump, and he figured if he says these kinds of things, that will accomplish that," Carson said.
"I've never seen anything even remotely [from Trump] that would remind me of racist. And believe me, I recognize a racist when I see them," he added.
HUD, which was established in 1965, provides mortgage insurance, public and Section 8 housing, and block grants. It also assists with recovery plans for natural disasters. Data provided by the agency, shows HUD has insured more than 30 million single family homes and provides affordable housing to more than 4.3 million low-income families.
"Last year, HUD leaders floated changing the [agency's] 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," Politico reported.
A critic of Carson's told The Washington Post that his time at HUD has done more harm to low-income families than good. He reportedly dialed back Obama-era policies at the agency aimed at desegregating low and middle-income neighborhoods and made changes to how the agency handles discrimination complaints.
“In his first two years as HUD Secretary, Carson has unfortunately focused either on trivial and ill-conceived initiatives like EnVision Centers, or on attempting large-scale harm to low-income residents by proposing budget cuts, rent hikes, [implementing more strict] work requirements, and suspending important fair housing initiatives,” Diane Yentel, president and chief executive of the National Low Income Housing Coalition told The Washington Post.
In the agency's defense, HUD spokesman Jereon Brown told WaPo that HUD "is prioritizing a backlog of 600 individual complaints of discrimination instead of initiating broad-based actions." And assured that the agency "is not retreating from the agency’s civil rights mission." WaPo added.
“Nearly 500 people had their cases resolved” since 2017, Brown said, “versus focusing our resources on larger secretary-initiated cases.”
Over half of the discrimination complaints were based on disability, and one fourth were based on race, according to HUD.
Responding to reactions to his announcement late Monday night, Carson said in a statement that he is doing the job the president hired him to do.
“President Donald J. Trump hired me to do a job as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and we are making tremendous progress ensuring our most vulnerable citizens are empowered with a path to self-sufficiency,” he said. “I always stand ready to serve this great president and the United States of America."