'Oreo?' Housing Secretary Ben Carson confuses real estate term for a cookie

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By Dartunorro Clark  with NBC News Politics
Image: Ben Carson
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson testifies at a House Financial Services Committee oversight hearing on Capitol Hill on May 21, 2019.   -   Copyright  Andrew Harnik AP

An REO is not "milk's favorite cookie."

But Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson thought the foreclosure-related real estate acronym, which means real estate owned, was the cream-filled chocolate cookie when grilled by Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., Tuesday during a House Financial Services Committee hearing.

Porter wanted to know about the high rate of foreclosures on homes insured by the Federal Housing Authority, which Carson's agency oversees.

"Do you know what an REO is?" Porter asked.

"Oreo?" a perplexed Carson answered.

"REO," Porter repeated. "No, not an Oreo. An R-E-O."

"Real estate?" Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, guessed. Then Porter to asked him what the "O" meant.

"The organization," he replied.

Porter, who previously worked as a mortgage-settlement official in California, then explained the term to him.

"That's what happens when a property goes to foreclosure," she said. "We call it an REO. And FHA loans have much higher REOs — that means they go to foreclosure rather than loss-mitigation or to non-foreclosure alternatives such as short sales — than comparable loans at the GSEs."

Porter then needled Carson in a tweet following the hearing.

"I asked @SecretaryCarson about REOs - a basic term related to foreclosure - at a hearing today. He thought I was referring to a chocolate sandwich cookie. No, really," she wrote.

Carson, however, took the flub in jest and tweeted a picture of a pack of Oreos and a note to send to Porter.

"OH, REO! Thanks, @RepKatiePorter. Enjoying a few post-hearing snacks. Sending some your way!" he tweeted.