Within minutes of meeting then-President-elect Donald Trump in January, comedian Steve Harvey was on the phone with Ben Carson, the then soon-to-be head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, he revealed in an interview this week.
“And then I told him, ‘Mr. President, I’m going to be honest with you, I didn’t vote for you. I campaigned very hard for Hillary Clinton,’” he continued. “And I said, ‘The problem was that we made a lot of mistakes in the campaign. We were playing checkers and y’all was playing chess. But now that you’re here, you’re the 45th president and I’m going to help you.’”
When the president asked him how he intended to help, he pivoted the discussion to Carson, whom Trump had nominated to serve as HUD’s director a month earlier.
“So I say, ‘You’ve appointed Ben Carson as the head of Housing and Urban Development, and I’ve got keys to a lot of cities around this country from the years of performing that I’ve done.’”
He explained how his credentials allowed him to “get an ear to” city officials in a moment’s notice.
“Y’all keep closing schools in the cities,” he said to Trump. “Why don’t we take those schools that are closing, put some HUD money in them, and reopen them as vision centers and teach STEM and computers and coding?”
To bring this plan to fruition, though, he first needed to speak with Carson.
“‘If you connect me with Ben Carson, I can help him with that,’” he told The Hollywood Reporter, recalling his conversation with Trump. “A few minutes later, he had Ben Carson on the phone.”
Since that momentous day eight months ago, Harvey has been to HUD twice to meet directly with Carson.
“I’ve met with Dr. Carson and we’re actually trying to get it started,” he said. “We’ve had meetings, and now we’re just waiting on the final notes. We have several teams in place. Hopefully before the year goes out, we’ll be making the announcement about the first vision center.”
Despite facing criticism from detractors who have argued and continue to argue that Harvey was “played” by Trump, the comedian made it clear in a statement five months ago that Trump was keeping his promises.
“As far as doing what he promised me he would do, he is doing it,” he told TMZ. “I’m working with HUD. I’m going to get some housing for underprivileged people. We’re going to set up some centers around the country. I’ve met with HUD. It’s going really well. God willing, it will work out.”
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