Can you picture a scenario in which Oreo cookies are discussed at a House Financial Services Committee hearing?
No? That’s OK. No need to imagine hypotheticals, because as it turns out, on Tuesday HUD Secretary Ben Carson name-dropped the popular Nabisco sandwich cookie on the stand. He accidentally mixed Oreo cookies up with REO, a common real estate term. Casual!
After California Congresswoman Katie Porter asked Carson to explain a disparity in REO rates, she took the time to confirm that he actually knew what REO stood for. And it’s a good thing she double checked, because Carson most certainly did not know.
“Do you know what an REO is?” Porter asked.
“An Oreo?” Carson replied.
“No, not an Oreo. An REO. R-E-O,” she clarified.
“Real estate…” he guessed.
“What’s the ‘O’ stand for?” Porter pressed.
“Organization?” he ventured.
“Owned. Real estate owned. That’s what happened when a property goes into foreclosure,” Porter explained.
For those who aren’t fluent in real estate lingo, like Carson it seems, an REO, or “real estate owned,” references a certain property that’s “foreclosed-upon” such as a house, apartment, or piece of land that ends up in a lender portfolio after an unsuccessful sale. The lender, oftentimes a bank, becomes the owner of the property.
According to Porter, who tweeted the exchange later in the afternoon, REO is “a basic term related to foreclosure” that HUD Secretary Carson should have known.
Bottom line: Carson messed up.
After the hearing, Carson tried to recover from the blunder by obtaining a pack of Oreo cookies and offering them, along with a thank you note, to Porter. He even tweeted some photos to charm people.
It was a valid attempt to make amends, but also a royally embarrassing one, especially since the hearing was focused on the foreclosure of homes, which is no laughing matter.
In true brand fashion, the official Oreo Twitter account was quick to get in on the action, tweeting an alternate definition of REO: “Really excellent OREO (cookie).”
𝗥𝗘𝗢 stands for “𝗥eally 𝗘xcellent 𝗢REO (cookie).” Everyone knows that.
— OREO Cookie (@Oreo) May 21, 2019
Ughhhhhhh. Read the room, everyone. And when in doubt, remember, you don’t always have to tweet.