Republican Rep. Aaron Schock may be having his worst week ever since he became a U.S. congressman.
First, the public learned of a $100,000 tab, paid by tax payers, to outfit Schock’s congressional office in the style of the hit PBS series “Downton Abbey.” Now a new scandal has emerged that threatens to cause even more drama for the Illinois heartthrob.
Benjamin Cole, Schock’s senior adviser for policy and communications, resigned Thursday after racially insensitive posts he allegedly wrote on his personal Facebook account over the last few years were made public.
For instance, in 2013, Cole reportedly wrote after spotting an African-American couple outside of his apartment in the nation’s capital: “So apparently the closing of the National Zoo has forced the animals to conduct their mating rituals on my street. #gentrifytoday Pt. 1”. The federal government shutdown that week had led to the National Zoo’s temporary closure.
In another unearthed post, allegedly written in 2010, Cole sarcastically said he “thinks they should build a mosque on the White House grounds.” … “I just think it would be nice for the president to have his own house of worship, since he’s not been able to find one suitable in DC since 2004 when he moved here.”
“I am extremely disappointed by the inexcusable and offensive online comments made by a member of my staff,” Schock said in a statement to the Journal Star newspaper in Peoria. “I would expect better from any member of my team. Upon learning about them I met with Mr. Cole and he offered his resignation which I have accepted.” Cole, who is a former Baptist pastor and energy industry spokesman, has not responded to requests from NBC News for comment.
Ironically, Think Progress has found a 2008 article for BaptistNews.com, penned by Cole, in which he chastises his fellow clergymen for indulging in racist invective in the wake of President Obama’s presidential victory. “During the course of the past year, I too have been forced to wrestle with my own prejudices,” he wrote. “At times, I’ve joined the bigoted banter and helped to scratch the old wounds of racism.”
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Meanwhile Schock is still reeling from the décor debacle. “I’ve never seen an episode of ‘Downton Abbey,’” he told ABC News. He claims members of his team authorized the refurbishment of his office without his knowledge. Schock has said he will foot the bill for the “bright red walls” and “gold-colored wall sconce with black candles,” and it’s currently unclear whether his expenditures violate any congressional ethics standards. The congressman remains defiant in the face of criticism.
“I’ve never been an old crusty white guy. I’m different. I came to Congress at 27,” the now 33-year-old Schock told ABC News. “When I go take a personal vacation I don’t sit on the beach, I go do active things. And so, I’m also not going to live in a cave. So when I post an Instagram photo with me and my friends, as Taylor Swift said, ‘haters gonna hate.’”