Update at 3:15 p.m.: Our colleague Ed O’Keefe has confirmed that Benjamin Cole, 38, a senior adviser to Rep. Aaron Schock for about a year, resigned Thursday.
In a statement to the Journal Star in Peoria, 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.”
First the liberal news site Think Progress posted a series of more than year-old racially-charged Facebook posts by Rep. Aaron Schock’s senior adviser, Benjamin Cole. Shortly thereafter, Buzzfeed News posted several more.
In one post from October 2013, Cole compared people in his D.C. neighborhood to animals escaped from the National Zoo with the hashtag #gentrifytoday. A few months later he said he witnessed a shooting, saying “one of the hood rats on my street” got shot by “another hood rat.”
Buzzfeed found a post from August 2010, where Cole wrote that a mosque should be built on White House grounds, and responded to a comment on it saying “it would be nice for the President to have his own house of worship…”
Cole did not return request for comment.
Both publications shared a post from last month where Cole described having a run-in with a “black female,” on the street and filing a complaint with the police. But Buzzfeed included further comments to that original Facebook post, where Cole wrote that he was doing “my absolute best to put as many Black Criminals who live and loiter on my street behind bars.” He also called them “black miscreants.”
Think Progress also unearthed an article Cole wrote for Baptist News Global in November 2008 after President Obama was first elected – a reflection on the historic time, a generally positive take where he admonishes Baptist pastors for offensive attacks about Obama over the campaign. Though Cole, himself a former Baptist pastor, does admit:
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. Yet on a quick flight back to Washington Nov. 5, I was able to get past my own persuasion about the political consequence of Barack Obama’s election and be thankful that America has become a place where a man with dark skin and an African surname can become president.
Cole began working on Capitol Hill in 2009 as a press secretary for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He went to work for Schock, who also started his first term in 2009, in early 2014.
Cole made news this week for attempting to quash a Washington Post story about Schock’s choice of Downton Abbey-inspired interior design for his congressional office.