By congressional standards, it started like a rather anodyne controversy: Rep. Aaron Schock’s (R-Ill.) office was decorated in a lavish, “Downton Abbey”-inspired way, thanks to an interior decorator who was not paid for her work. Facing a possible ethics flap, the Illinois Republican agreed to pay for the work, effectively bringing the matter to a close.
But as one problem ended, another one arose.
A top adviser to Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock has resigned after controversial posts were found on his Facebook page.Benjamin Cole, a senior adviser to Schock, told POLITICO he resigned and that Schock, a Republican, accepted his resignation. The posts had Cole likening black people to animals and said a mosque should be built on the White House grounds for President Barack Obama.
That description of Cole’s racially charged, online missives may sound like an exaggeration. It’s really not.
ThinkProgress got the ball rolling this morning, publishing Facebook posts from the congressional aide mocking two African Americans outside his D.C. apartment. In the messages, Cole compared the people with escaped zoo animals, adding the hashtag “#gentrifytoday.”
BuzzFeed uncovered additional materials, including messages from Cole calling for a mosque to be built on the White House grounds for the president, and a vow that Cole was doing his “absolute best” to put “as many Black Criminals who live and loiter on my street behind bars.”
The Republican congressman told his hometown newspaper, Peoria’s Journal Star, this afternoon, “I am extremely disappointed by the inexcusable and offensive online comments made by a member of my staff. 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 served as a senior policy adviser to Schock, is the highest-profile resignation by a Capitol Hill staffer since Elizabeth Lauten’s departure in December.