As if Congressman Aaron Schock's week wasn't already embarrassing enough, what with his Downton Abbey-inspired office renovation, Think Progress now reports that one of his senior advisers has made a bunch of noxious, racist statements on Facebook, comparing black people to "zoo animals." Time for a chat, secretly bigoted Congressional staffers!
Benjamin Cole is a former Southern Baptist pastor who's now Schock's senior advisor for policy and communications, according to his LinkedIn profile. He's also evidently a complete turd: Think Progress reports that they obtained a series of his Facebook posts that used the hashtag #gentrifytoday, and made reference to his neighborhood "hood rats" shooting each other. One was a video whose caption read, "So apparently the closing of the National Zoo has forced the animals to conduct their mating rituals on my street." Think Progress says that the video showed two African-Americans standing on the street.
BuzzFeed got other Facebook posts from Cole's page, including one where Cole suggested that the White House "build a mosque" on the grounds. He also complained about "White" (yes capital letters) people in his building being harassed by "Black miscreants." He wished aloud that all the "Black criminals" who loitered on his street would be "put behind bars." Very Christian of you, Ben.
The site also points out that in 2008, Cole wrote a column urging his fellow Baptist pastors not to be so dumb and racist about Barack Obama's becoming president. But he admitted that he too is an asshole: "During the course of the past year, I too have been forced to wrestle with my own prejudices. At times, I've joined the bigoted banter and helped to scratch the old wounds of racism."
Schock very, very quickly announced that he was "extremely disappointed by the inexcusable and offensive online comments made by a member of my staff," adding that Cole had "resigned." So, that's one asshole gone from Capitol Hill, several hundred to go. But his little whoopsie is an object lesson for all the other racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic or otherwise shitheadish political staffers out there: don't put your bullshit on social media.
Seriously, why is it that Cole thought it was cool to declare to all of his Facebook friends that he thinks his neighbors are animals? Why was Elizabeth Lauten comfortable declaring that she thought the Obama girls looked like pouty sluts? Much like teenagers sharing sex selfies on Twitter, do you guys truly not grasp that Facebook is public? Sooner or later, anything you put on the Internet, if it's bad enough, will be seen by everyone on the Internet.
While we're at it, the same goes for the children of politicians: Senators Jeff Flake and Joe Heck had to apologize in 2013 after BuzzFeed discovered that both of their sons were spending virtually all of their free time writing racist and homophobic posts. And the same goes for whoever was using a House I.P. address to edit Wikipedia articles and insert transphobic remarks into articles about things like Orange Is the New Black. (You can follow all the anonymous edits being made from the Hill at the Twitter account Congressedits; the nasty remarks about Laverne Cox have died down, for now).
The real problem here is that each one of these people believed, deep down, that every one of their friends shared their shitty little worldview. But Facebook isn't just for your shiny new GOP friends, Ben and Elizabeth and Co. — it's also for the people you went to high school with, your former coworkers at the Dairy Queen, your sorority sister in college who quietly hated your guts and cringed every time you whisper-shouted something nasty about "those people" while shooting a sideways glance at the Guatemalan kid bussing your table.
Facebook is public. Twitter is public. Save your precious thoughts on the black and brown people in "your" neighborhood for your Confederate-flag spangled diary.
And you know what? Let's really drive this point home. If you're Facebook friends with a political staffer of any description, and if that person is in the habit of making prejudiced remarks, email us. We'll know just what to do.
Rep. Aaron Schock, whose senior advisor Benjamin Cole needs to have a seat, pictured in 2013. Image via AP