Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) had a bad week. First, the Congressman’s Downtown Abby inspired-office trended heavily on social media, resulting in calls for an ethics investigation to determine whether or not he had violated House rules by accepting interior decorating work for free (the Congressman has since said that he will pay for the decorating). Then, a second scandal: the revelation of a variety of racist Facebook updates by Schock’s spokesman, Benjamin Cole, which ultimately led to Cole’s resignation.
- In October 2013, Cole uploaded a video of two African American’s outside his D.C. apartment with a variety of captions, including:
- “So apparently the closing of the National Zoo has forced the animals to conduct their mating rituals on my street. #gentrifytoday Pt. 1”
- #gentrifytoday Pt. 3 This is where she finds another glass bottle, and breaks it on their stoop to use as a weapon.”
- “one of the hood rats on my street just got shot by another hood rat. I was right there when the gun was fired.” (December 2013)
- “thinks they should build a mosque on the White House grounds.” When questioned by a commenter about the furor over Mosques, Cole responded, “…I just think it would be nice for the President to have his own house of worship, since he’snot been able to find one suitable in DC since 2004 when he moved here.” (August 2010)
- When filming an arrest outside of his home in January 2013, Cole said in a comment, “For a second, I thought maybe Quentin Tarantino was filming a new installment of the Django series. It was so very exciting. All the pretty lights. All the law enforcement. All the shouting.”
Cole removed the statuses in question after they became public, but it was obviously too late at this point, and Cole resigned. In a statement, Congressman Schock said:
“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.”
The staff of public officials, clearly, are held to largely the same standards as the public officials for whom they work. This is an important point for any public staffer: your social media posts can become public fodder. As such, it is important that any public employee use caution when making a social media update. It’s also vital that any government office have appropriate social media policies that would prevent such an update from ever taking place, and allow for appropriate consequences in the event that the policy was broken.
Of course, not being a racist would be infinitely preferable!