Emails show Ben Carson chose $31,000 dining set despite denials

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said he was as “surprised as anyone” when he learned his staff had ordered a $31,000 dining set, but newly released emails appear to show he and his wife personally selected the furniture.

An email from Carson’s assistant was sent in August with the subject line: “Secretary’s Dining Room Furniture Needed.” It cites “printouts of the furniture the Secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out.”

The documents were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request from American Oversight — a watchdog group helmed by former Obama administration officials.

HUD Spokesman Raffi Williams initially denied the Carsons were involved in selecting the pricey set, instead blaming “career staffers in charge of the building."

Several days later, Carson in an exclusive statement to CNN said he was shocked to learn of the purchase and that he would cancel the order, which included a custom wood table, chairs and a hutch.

RELATED: Ben Carson through the years

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Ben Carson through the years
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Ben Carson through the years
BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 12: (JAPAN OUT) (VIDEO CAPTURE) In this image from video Dr. Ben Carson talks about his life and education August 12, 2001 in Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Carson was profiled for a CNN program called 'America's Best: Science and Medicine,' for his preeminence in the field of neurosurgery. (Photo by CNN via Getty Images)
Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks, Ben Carson, Ralph Abernathy and Levy Watkins at Johns Hopkins University during a celebration of the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr, Baltimore, Maryland, 1980. (Photo by Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)
Darius Rucker, Candy Carson and Dr. Ben Carson M.D., president and co-founder of Carson Scholars Fund (Photo by Louis Myrie/WireImage)
SCOTTSDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 5: Dr. Ben Carson is interviewed during a live streaming Web-A-Thon with Wake Up America September 5, 2014 at the Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. Carson is a retired neurosurgeon who would run in the 2016 Presidential campaign as a conservative for the Tea Party. (Photo by Laura Segall/Getty Images)
SCOTTSDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 5: Dr. Ben Carson speaks as the keynote speaker at the Wake Up America gala Event September 5, 2014 at the Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. Carson is a retired neurosurgeon who would run in the 2016 Presidential campaign as a conservative for the Tea Party. (Photo by Laura Segall/Getty Images)
SCOTTSDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 5: Dr. Ben Carson (C) chats with guests after a live streaming Web-A-Thon with Wake Up America September 5, 2014 at the Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. Carson is a retired neurosurgeon who would run in the 2016 Presidential campaign as a conservative for the Tea Party. (Photo by Laura Segall/Getty Images)
US conservative Ben Carson is surrounded by supporters as he waits to be interviewed at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland, outside Washington,DC on February 26, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - FEBRUARY 26: Ben Carson, former neurosurgeon, addresses the 42nd annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) February 26, 2015 in National Harbor, Maryland. Carson is the author of 'One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save Americas Future' and 'America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great'. Conservative activists attended the annual political conference to discuss their agenda. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US conservative Ben Carson addresses the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland, outside Washington, DC on February 26, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 08: Ben Carson attends the National Action Network (NAN) national convention at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel on April 8, 2015 in New York City. The network, founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton in 1991 is hosting various politicians, organizers and religious leaders to talk about the nation's most pressing issues. The conservative Carson is widely rumored to be considering a GOP presidential run in 2016. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - MAY 4: Republican Dr. Ben Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon, speaks as he officially announces his candidacy for President of the United States at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts May 4, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. Carson was scheduled to travel today to Iowa, but changed his plans when his mother became critically ill. He now will be traveling to Dallas instead to be with his mother Sonya. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
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“I briefly looked at catalogs for dining furniture and was shocked by the cost of the furniture,” he wrote. “My wife also looked at catalogs and wanted to be sure that the color of the chair fabric of any set that was chosen matches the rest of the” decor.

News that Carson dropped $31,000 in federal funds to swap the old table set out of his HUD suite made national headlines and sparked immediate backlash when it was first reported in February — around the same time the housing agency had proposed stripping more than $6 billion from its affordable housing budget.

Approached Tuesday night about the discrepancies between his statement and emails regarding the dining room furniture, Williams told CNN: “When presented with options by professional staff, Mrs. Carson participated in the selection of specific styles.”

The newly released emails show conversation surrounding the furniture in the Secretary’s suite going back to May. Around that time, a pair of aides sent in requests that the chairs be tightened up as “most of them are loose and wiggling.”

Several months later the HUD’s scheduling office sent an email to the secretary’s wife, Candy Carson to set an appointment to look at potential new furniture.

The scheduler emphasized there was an approaching deadline they have to have the order in by should they want “to use the money allocated for the fiscal year.”

The furniture was quoted as being $24,666, but receipts show the final bill was nearly $7,000 more after delivery and installation charges in addition to a small up-charge for the upholstered chairs.

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